Experimenting with plastic avoidance media messages

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Plastic pollution is a global problem linked to climate change, biodiversity loss, and poor human health. But many single-use plastics are avoidable if people just change their behaviour. Perceptions about social norms (the unwritten social rules about how we should and should not behave) can influence single-use plastic avoidance. These perceptions are shaped through exposure to different types of environmental cues, including mass media. Given that media coverage of plastic pollution has been high in recent years, this raises the question – is media promoting plastic avoidance or plastic use as the current norm?

An online experiment was undertaken involving a survey of 1,000 participants. Respondents were asked about their perceptions, beliefs, and behaviours regarding four single-use items: plastic bags, plastic straws, disposable coffee cups, and plastic take-away containers. They were then shown a ~2-minute video clip from one of four documentaries about plastic pollution (or a control clip about the process of making plastic). Two clips emphasised the ‘scale of the problem’ (potentially promoting the undesirable descriptive norm), while two clips focused on the ‘environmental impact’ of plastic pollution (potentially promoting the benefits of avoidance). Respondents were asked again about their perceptions, beliefs, and behaviours immediately after the clip and again one month later.

This presentation will report on the changes in perceptions, beliefs, and intentions between respondents who were exposed to the different video clips. Insights from this experiment will be of value to those interested in encouraging pro-environmental social norms using media communication.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventAustralian Science Communicators National Conference 2020 - Monash University Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 16 Feb 202019 Sep 2020
Conference number: 11th


ConferenceAustralian Science Communicators National Conference 2020
Internet address

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