Sustainable behaviors

During the last decade, the purchase of organic food within a sustainable consumption context has gained momentum. Consequently, the amount of research in the field has increased, leading in some cases to discrepancies regarding both methods and results. The present review examines those works that applied the theory of planned behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1991) as a theoretical framework to understand and predict consumers’ motivation to buy organic food. A meta-analysis has been conducted to assess the strength of the relationships between attitude, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and intention, as well as between intention and behavior. Results confirm the major role played by the individual attitude in shaping buying intention, followed by subjective norms and perceived behavioral control. Intention-behavior shows a large effect size, few studies however explicitly reported such an association. Furthermore, starting from a pooled correlation matrix, a meta-analytic structural equation model has been applied to jointly evaluate the strength of the relationships among the factors of the original model. Results suggest the robustness of the TPB model. Besides, mediation analysis indicates a potential direct effect from subjective norms to the individual attitude in the present context. Finally, some issues regarding methodological aspects of the application of the TPB within the context of organic food are discussed for further research developments. 

Research shows that the surrounding environment has a crucial influence on people’s recycling behavior. For example, individuals recycle less in dirty settings (Fiorillo, 2013; Drackner, 2005), and litter on the street is seen as a disincentive to using appropriate bins for recycling (Geller et al., 1977; Keizer et al., 2008; Krauss et al., 1996; Ramos & Torgler, 2012; Reiter & Samuel, 1980). It could be argued that recycling functions in a conditionally collaborative way, such that people are discouraged from recycling if they observe environmental degradation (i.e., surrounding influence; Gächter et al., 2012). A similar dynamic can occur when observing other people’s behavior directly (Cialdini et al., 1990), resulting in demotivation to recycle as a consequence of looking at the norm set by others (i.e., peer conformity). These behavioral spillover effects are based on psychological modeling arising from peer and surrounding influences (Bandura, 2001) and can start negative littering feedback loops and turn a community into a dirty neighborhood (Dur & Vollaard, 2015). In this process, the key determinants for reproducing others’ (lack of) recycling behavior depend on the sensitivity towards social norms, here lays the strong connection with TPB. 

In conclusion, it is now correct to say that psychological sciences can predict fairly correctly the probable behavior that individuals might have in certain specific situations. This is thanks to a well defined psychological model. Practical implications of these studies shall include the use of this knowledge to, not only predict, but also acting in order to discourage the possibilities of these kinds of bad behaviors to happen in the future.


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