Sustainable behaviors

Starting date
September 15, 0014
Duration (months)
Human Sciences
Managers or local contacts
Ceschi Andrea , Sartori Riccardo , Tommasi Francesco

Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the purchase of organic food in the context of sustainable consumption. As a result, research on this topic has increased, leading to discrepancies in methods and results. The current line of research examines studies that have adopted the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB; Ajzen, 1991) as a theoretical framework for understanding and predicting consumers’ motivations to purchase organic food.
A meta-analysis was conducted to assess the strength of the relationships between attitudes toward sustainable consumption, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and intentions, as well as between intentions and behaviors. The results confirmed the role of individual attitudes in shaping purchase intentions, followed by subjective norms and consumers’ perceived behavioral control. The relationship between intention and behavior shows a significant effect size, but few studies have focused on this relationship. In addition, the study suggests that the environment has a critical influence on people’s behavior. For example, individuals are less likely to recycle if they are placed in a dirty environment (Fiorillo, 2013), and garbage left on the street has been shown to be a disincentive to use proper recycling containers (Geller et al., 1977; Keizer et al., 2008; Krauss et al., 1996; Ramos & Torgler, 2012). It can be argued that recycling is conditionally cooperative and that people are less concerned about sustainability when they perceive environmental degradation (Gächter et al., 2012).
A similar dynamic occurs with direct observation of others’ behavior (Cialdini et al., 1990), resulting in demotivation to recycle. In this view, critical factors in promoting appropriate environmental behavior depend on sensitivity to social norms. Thus, we can say that psychological sciences can predict the behavior of individuals in certain situations, thanks to models that are scientifically validated. This makes it possible to use the knowledge gained from studies on the subject to predict behavior and act consciously in relation to the environment.
In this sense, this line of research aims to reformulate the most accredited predictive models of the behavior of individuals in the purchase of organic food and respect for the environment, allowing a simpler and more effective evaluation of the consequences of such behavior.

Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50(2), 179-211.
Cialdini, R. B., Reno, R. R., & Kallgren, C. A. (1990). A focus theory of normative conduct: Recycling the concept of norms to reduce littering in public places. Journal of personality and social psychology, 58(6), 1015.
Fiorillo, D. (2013). Household waste recycling: national survey evidence from Italy. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 56(8), 1125-1151.
Gächter, S., Nosenzo, D., & Sefton, M. (2012). The impact of social comparisons on reciprocity. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 114(4), 1346-1367.
Geller, E. S., Witmer, J. F., & Tuso, M. A. (1977). Environmental interventions for litter control. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62(3), 344.
Keizer, K., Lindenberg, S., & Steg, L. (2008). The spreading of disorder. science, 322(5908), 1681-1685.
Krauss, R. M., Freedman, J. L., & Whitcup, M. (1978). Field and laboratory studies of littering. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 14(1), 109-122.
Ramos, J., & Torgler, B. (2012). Are academics messy? Testing the broken windows theory with a field experiment in the work environment. Review of Law & Economics, 8(3), 563-577.

Project participants

Andrea Ceschi
Associate Professor
Riccardo Sartori
Associate Professor
Francesco Tommasi
Temporary Professor
Research areas involved in the project
Formazione e organizzazioni
work and organizational psychology
Title Authors Year
Predicting organic food consumption: A meta-analytic structural equation model based on the theory of planned behavior Scalco, Andrea; Noventa, Stefano; Sartori, Riccardo; Ceschi, Andrea 2017
The implementation of the theory of planned behavior in an agent-based model for waste recycling: A review and a proposal. Scalco, Andrea; Ceschi, Andrea; Shiboub, I; Sartori, Riccardo; Frayret, J-M; Dickert, Stephan 2017


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