The University of Southampton
Life at Southampton

An injection of my dissertation

Well wha’do’we have here then? Simply a few interesting nuggets that I’ve dug up on my pilgrimage through the dissertation desert.

Social herding

Ask yourself, am I sheep? Well you (hopefully) don’t stand in a field all day looking complacent but yes, you are a sheep. And here’s why: plenty of experiments have shown that people go to crazy lengths just to imitate others. For example, in the famous Asch experiment, it was proven how clearly different sized lines can be seen differently through pressure to conform.


Yes, yes you are.

Social proof is used all the time in marketing to convince people to do things. Think “70% people love this air freshener” or “Bob has never looked back since using BIC pens”, etc. An interesting thing occurs though with negative social proof i.e. emphasising how many people are in the wrong. For example, to decrease littering you put up a sign saying ‘many people litter in this park and ecosystems are being damaged as a result’. This actually signals that it’s socially acceptable to emulate this behaviour and, as a result, is ineffective at changing it.


Don’t (always) follow the herd.

Attitude-behaviour gap

Yes I’ll definitely be buying vegetarian tonight….*takes a bite from a chicken wing*. We’re all susceptible to saying one thing and acting in another way. This is a predictable trend with surveys. We can ask people what they intend to do, but whether they actually buy that organic alarm clock is a different kettle of fish. There are many reasons for the A-B gap; people have to make sacrifices somewhere – ‘Yes I like polar bears but this mozzarella stick tastes terrible! Pass me a soy-fed beef burger.’

Don’t forget to wash your greens!

‘Greenwashing’ is when companies claim they’re doing good for the environment but actually have ulterior motives. To tell if a company truly cares, here’s a few questions you can ask:

  • are their audits carried out externally or in-house?
  • are they transparent about all their operations, financial statements and production materials?
  • is sustainability embedded into their corporate culture like a salmon inside a sushi roll, or is it just a PR stunt?
  • are the campaigns they promote long-term or are they just jumping on a bandwagon? (e.g. Pepsi’s awful “join the conversation” Black Lives Matter campaign)


I definitely know… some of the words in these books.

Negative Nancy

Negative information can actually be more telling of a person or company than positive information (see: the negativity bias). Why is this so? Well anyone, ethical or not, can perform ethical activities; I’m sure the child catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang occasionally gives to charity. However, unethical actions are only performed by unethical people/brands.

Those daym kids

It’s been proven, even with current shifts in culture towards sustainability, that most kids care more about fashion and their personal image rather than any Fairtrade scheme. So how can we get those rapscallions to care about our lovely planet? Well one idea could be to use green influencers on social media. Since “the youf” are heavily influenced by peers and role models, this could bring about some groovy changes in their behaviour.

Feeling bogged down by your coursework? Relieve your fury or findings in the comments!

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