Applying social influence insights to encourage climate resilient domestic water behaviour: Bridging the theory-practice gap

Ellin Lede, Rose Meleady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Water scarcity is one of the most pressing issues of our time and it is projected to increase as global demand surges and climate change limits fresh water availability. If we are to reduce water demand, it is essential that we draw on every tool in the box, including one that is underestimated and underutilised: social influence. Research from the psychological sciences demonstrates that behaviour is strongly influenced by the behaviour of others, and that social influence can be harnessed to develop cost-effective strategies to encourage climate resilient behaviour. Far less attention has been paid to investigating water-related interventions in comparison to interventions surrounding energy. In this paper we consider the application of three social influence strategies to encourage water conservation: social norms; social identity; and socially-comparative feedback. We not only review their empirical evidence base, but also offer an example of their application in the residential sector with the aim of highlighting how theoretical insights can be translated into practice. We argue that collaborations between researchers and industry are essential if we are to maximise the potential of behaviour change interventions to encourage climate resilient water behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere562
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change
Issue number1
Early online date14 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019


  • behaviour change
  • climate resilient behaviour
  • social influence
  • water conservation
  • water demand management

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