Harnessing the unconscious mind of the consumer: How implicit attitudes predict pre-conscious visual attention to carbon footprint information on products

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Abstract

Consumers clearly have a role to play in the global fight against climate change since even relatively small changes in patterns of household consumption could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what evidence is there that consumers do consider the environmental impacts of products when shopping? Indeed, how psychologically salient are the carbon footprint labels now appearing on a range of products in various countries? Here we test the psychological salience of this information using eye-tracking to identify, on a frame-by-frame basis, individual fixations on various features of the packaging, including carbon footprint. We found that the mean fixation level for carbon footprint was 12.2%, indicating it was indeed as salient as other important features. High or low levels of carbon footprint had no significant effect on gaze fixation. We also found no significant relationship between self-reported attitudes to low carbon products and overall level of fixation, nor was there any significant relationship between implicit attitude and level of fixation. But implicit attitude did significantly impact on the point of first fixation, in that those with a strong positive implicit attitude were significantly more likely to fixate first on carbon footprint information. This suggests that carbon labelling could potentially be effective for some consumers, those with the right implicit attitude. Measures of explicit attitude, on the other hand, seemed to be largely irrelevant. The implications of this finding for sparking a ‘green revolution’ in consumer habits through the provision of carbon footprint information for consumers is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-290
JournalSemiotica
Volume2015
Issue number204
Early online date27 Mar 2015
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Mar 2015

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