Understanding effectiveness skepticism

Jan Willem Bolderdijk, Linda Steg, Edwin Woerdman, René Frieswijk, Judith I.M. De Groot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


Policy makers have proposed various incentive programs to curb consumption-related problems, such as traffic congestion and carbon emissions. While experts consider such programs effective in reducing those problems, consumers are more skeptical. Although this "effectiveness skepticism" is currently viewed as an important cause of public opposition, the authors argue that it may also arise as a consequence of opposition. Specifically, consumers oppose policies they consider personally unattractive or unfair. This opposition motivates them to also be skeptical about the potential effectiveness of such policies. Three studies that include a variety of methods, policies, and samples provide empirical support for this reasoning: perceptions of expected effects can be biased by consumers' perceptions of personal attractiveness and fairness. In line with this causal ordering, the authors find that offering optimistic effectiveness estimates, although successful in reducing effectiveness skepticism, did not boost policy support. Policy makers aiming to boost support prior to implementation should thus not only communicate a policy's effectiveness, but also address other causes of opposition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-361
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017


  • Effectiveness
  • Fairness
  • Incentive programs
  • Policies
  • Skepticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding effectiveness skepticism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this