Cross-cultural comparison of nudging effects for environmental protection: A case-study of risk-averse attitudes toward disposable plastics

Hidenori Komatsu, Hiromi Kubota, Nobuyuki Tanaka, Mariah Griffin, Jennifer Link, Glenn Geher, Maryanne L. Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disposable plastics are drawing considerable attention as a source of environmental risk despite their benefits in daily life. Banning the use of disposable plastics could increase other types of risks, which may damage the public good in the long run. Considering the trade-off of the risks and benefits, one way to improve social welfare is to conduct proper recycling and to continue using plastics but limit them to essential use, avoiding an unnecessary ban. A potential barrier to such a policy might be risk-averse attitudes toward actions that are perceived to threaten future generations, which is a well-known phenomenon. We previously designed a framework for information provision using messages that remind individuals about familial support, which had significant effects in multiple countries on increasing positive attitudes toward air pollution caused by industrialization. We hypothesized that this information provision could also be effective for disposable plastic use. Thus, we conducted a randomized controlled trial via online surveys in Japan, Canada, and the US to identify the effects of our designed messages about recycling on increasing positive attitudes toward disposable plastics. The intervention effects were measured by the differencein- difference method and panel analysis based on linear regression models using the respondents' attributes and personality traits. The effects were consistently correlated with a sense of familial support, with the effect sizes varying according to country (US > Japan > Canada). Attributes that positively contributed to the message being more effective were higher agreeableness, lower Machiavellianism, lower psychopathy, and being a woman. Although personal fear about COVID-19 moderated the message effects, concern about the threats to relatives and family boosted the effects. Although the effect sizes were influenced by external factors, the results suggested that our proposed framework for information provision has the potential to be applied to a wider variety of risk-related topics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0277183
JournalPloS one
Issue number11 November
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Nov
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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