Policy acceptance of low-consumption governance approaches: The effect of social norms and hypocrisy

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Tackling over-consumption of resources and associated emissions at the lifestyle level will be crucial to climate change mitigation. Understanding the public acceptability of policy aimed at behaviour change in this domain will help to focus strategy towards effective and targeted solutions. Across two studies (n = 259, 300) we consider how policy approaches at different levels of governance (individual, community, and national) might be influenced by the inducement of hypocrisy and the activation of social norms. We also examine the influence of these experimental manipulations upon behavioural intention to reduce consumption (e.g., repair not replace, avoiding luxuries). Dynamic social norm framing was unsuccessful in producing an effect on policy acceptance or intentions to reduce consumption. Information provision about the impact of individual consumption on global climate change increased support for radical policies at the national level (banning environmentally harmful consumption practices) and the community level (working fewer hours, sharing material products, collaborative food cultivation), yet the inducement of hypocrisy had no additional effect. This is in contrast to individual-level behavioural intentions, where the inducement of hypocrisy decreased intentions to engage in high-consumption behaviour. This paper concludes with implications for low-consumption governance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1247
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2020


  • Consumption
  • Governance
  • Hypocrisy
  • Neoliberalism
  • Policy acceptance
  • Pro-environmental behaviour
  • Psychology
  • Regulation
  • Social norms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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