Problem awareness does not predict littering: A field study on littering in the Gambia

Laura Farage*, Isabella Uhl-Haedicke, Nina Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Littering is a worldwide problem. Recently, it has become a problem in countries that until now have had much less of some types of trash (e.g., plastics), such as in Africa. Most research on factors influencing littering has been conducted in more industrialized regions and has shown that personal norms and social norms mainly explain why people litter or act in an environmentally unfriendly way. One prominent model, the Norm Activation Model (NAM) postulates and has shown that awareness of consequences (AC), ascription of responsibility (AR), and personal norm (PN) are positively related with behavioral intention (BI) and littering behavior. In this field study we tested the model in the Gambia, West Africa, and offer new insights. We approached 132 people on the street and invited them to a candy tasting to observe their littering behavior of the candy wrapper followed by an interview assessing AC, AR, PN, and BI. Structural equation modeling confirmed an overall fit of the data to the “Western” hypothesized model. However importantly differences emerged, Gambians had a high AC, but this was not related to littering behavior. Moreover, an antilittering PN was low. The results suggest that interventions, which aim to decrease littering, should focus on promoting personal responsibility to strengthen a PN, in this context where trash facilities are not yet overall available. Future research should investigate how developing social norms could also help to keep the streets cleaner.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101686
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date11-Sep-2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct-2021

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