Social Validation, Reciprocation, and Sustainable Orientation

Cultivating “Clean” Codes of Conduct through Social Influence

  • Tobias Otterbring University of Agder
  • Michał Folwarczny Reykjavik University
Keywords: social influence, social validation, Sustainability, Climate Change, Sustainable tourism behaviors, Reciprocity


We test whether social influence strategies generate more sustainable tourism practices. Study 1 manipulated printed messages in the changing rooms of a sporting goods store to investigate whether reciprocity and social validation messages resulted in fewer daily cleanups carried out by store employees compared to a control message. Study 2 exposed participants to different social validation messages or a control message and measured participants’ willingness to engage in sustainable tourism behaviors. Both reciprocity and social validation messages resulted in more sustainable practices than the control message (Study 1) and all social validation messages performed better than the control message in inducing sustainable tourism behaviors (Study 2). Our findings suggest that tourism managers can easily apply reciprocity or social validation messages to reduce the environmental footprint of tourists’ activities, while simultaneously reducing the operating costs of their own businesses.

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