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Watching eyes on potential litter can reduce littering: evidence from two field experiments

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Melissa BatesonORCiD, Professor Daniel Nettle



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Littering constitutes a major societal problem, and any simple intervention that reduces its prevalence would be widely beneficial. In previous research, we have found that displaying images of watching eyes in the environment makes people less likely to litter. Here, we investigate whether the watching eyes images can be transferred onto the potential items of litter themselves. In two field experiments on a university campus, we created an opportunity to litter by attaching leaflets that either did or did not feature an image of watching eyes to parked bicycles. In both experiments, the watching eyes leaflets were substantially less likely to be littered than control leaflets (odds ratios 0.22-0.32). We also found that people were less likely to litter when there other people in the immediate vicinity than when there were not (odds ratios 0.04-0.25) and, in one experiment but not the other, that eye leaflets only reduced littering when there no other people in the immediate vicinity. We suggest that designing cues of observation into packaging could be a simple but fruitful strategy for reducing littering.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bateson M, Robinson R, Abayomi-Cole T, Greenlees J, O'Connor A, Nettle D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PeerJ

Year: 2015

Volume: 3

Print publication date: 01/12/2015

Acceptance date: 04/11/2015

Date deposited: 07/01/2016

ISSN (electronic): 2167-8359

Publisher: PeerJ, Ltd.


DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1443


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