Discussions about consumption

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The ethical and ecological problems with consumption in relation to sustainability are well known, and information on the matter is widely available. So why do some people make conscious consumptions choices, while others simply do not seem to care?

CESSS-member Carolin Zorell and Thomas Denk from Örebro University have published the paper “Political consumerism and interpersonal discussion patterns” with the aim to better understand the reasons behind why some people are not making sustainable consumption choices, despite widely available information about the negative impacts of consumption. Carolin Zorell has an interest in social psychology and the power of conversations. She has been inspired by research in political participation, where previous studies have shown that a person’s voting behaviour is highly dependent on the behaviour of people the person lives with and/or talks politics with. Her impression was that the perspective of interpersonal discussion could be important also in the case of sustainable consumption, but previous research has more often focused on individual level factors (income, education, values etc) or social norms.

Their study is based on representative survey data from Sweden collected in 2019 with 1647 respondents aged between 16-85 years. The results show that persons who had been exposed to influencing attempts from others indeed to a much higher degree engaged in political consumerism. More frequent exposure to interpersonal influence also came along with more regular engagement in political consumerism. Thus, people seem to ‘recruit’ each other into political consumerism. Conversely, one could say that some people might not be political consumers simply because no one asked them to. This points at the possibility that more people would start making conscious consumption decisions if the influencing attempts between peers would increase.

Zorell, C.V., & Denk, T. (2021). Political Consumerism and Interpersonal Discussion Patterns. Scandinavian Political Studies.