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Active and Forced Choice for Overcoming Status Quo Bias: A Field Experiment on the Adoption of “No junk mail” Stickers in Berlin, Germany

Abstract

Consumers around the world are burdened by large amounts of unaddressed junk mail. Attaching “No junk mail” stickers to mailboxes offers a simple solution for protecting against unwanted ads. Presumably, the use of such stickers can be increased if consumers deliberately decide either for or against receiving junk mail. This conjecture of status quo bias was tested in a field experiment run with more than 900 households in Berlin, Germany. In one treatment, stickers were put into mailboxes, facilitating active choice. In a second treatment, stickers were attached halfway onto the outsides of mailboxes, forcing consumers to either remove or fully attach them. It was found that roughly a fifth of the sample attached a sticker after treatment. With uptake of more than 21, as compared to 16%, the forced choice was more effective than the active choice treatment. The findings highlight the importance of green nudges and defaults for promoting pro-environmental behaviour. Implications for landlords of the presented interventions are discussed. The field of social norms is identified as a promising area for extending the scope of the present study.

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Notes

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    In the 2013 general elections, Hans-Christian Ströbele, running in this district, received roughly 40 % of the first vote, being Germany’s only candidate of the Green Party to gain a direct mandate for parliament. In comparison, on average, the Green Party received 8.4 % of the second votes in Germany in the same elections.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the student group that assisted in distributing the stickers, namely Cornelia, Georg, Gesine, Giulia, Helena, Jan, Kerstin, Michael, and Viola. We are thankful to Felix Arnold, Ranjan Kumar Ghosh, Christian Kimmich, Benedikt Meyer-Bretschneider, Valeria Schwarz-Gröger, and an anonymous reviewer for comments that helped to improve the paper. Excellent language editing was provided by Christopher Hank. We also thank the bologna.lab at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for their financial support of the Q-Team “Behavioral Agricultural and Environmental Economics.”

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Correspondence to Jens Rommel.

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Liebig, G., Rommel, J. Active and Forced Choice for Overcoming Status Quo Bias: A Field Experiment on the Adoption of “No junk mail” Stickers in Berlin, Germany. J Consum Policy 37, 423–435 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10603-014-9264-2

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Keywords

  • Active choice
  • Behavioural economics
  • Green nudge
  • Junk mail
  • Status quo bias