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New Study: A Simple Lapel Pin Can Get You to Reuse Hotel Towels (Among Other Things)

Prompting hotel guests to commit to helping the environment—and giving them a lapel pin as reward—can change consumer behavior dramatically.

We learned recently that having people sign their names at the top—rather than at the bottom—can increase the likelihood that they'll fill out a form truthfully. That act is a bit like asking somebody to commit to the truth before responding to questions.

It shouldn't come as much surprise that committing to an action oneself is more effective in changing behavior than being told to change behavior by somebody else. That's what scientists have reported in the Journal of Consumer Research only, this time, it's specifically in the area of consumer behavior.

The study is a fun one. You know those little cards in hotels that say that if you put your towels back on the rack, you can reuse them and you're helping the environment? Apparently they're slightly more effective if there's a little tagline that says something like "and most guests do this," (presumably with an implied "and the ones who don't are reeeeal jerks").

But the study wanted to see what happened if guests were prompted at check-in and committed themselves to helping the environment "and received a pin to symbolize that commitment" before even getting to their room.

The authors studied consumers staying at a California hotel. At check-in, guests were asked to either make a general commitment to be environmentally friendly or to make a specific commitment to reuse towels during their stay. Notably, the commitment was entirely symbolic—once guests checked in, they were able to exist in anonymity and behave as they wished. To reinforce the commitment, some guests who chose to commit further received a "Friend of the Earth" lapel pin.


The result? Guests were "significantly" more likely to reuse towels and turn off the lights before they left the room.

Now, let's see it in action. Just press your fingers to your monitor on this blank line __________ (or the edge of your desk) if you'd like to be really nice to everybody for the rest of the day.

It's totally anonymous.

Photo via Flickr (cc) user teddy-rised.

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