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Exploring the effects of trash and disorder on prosocial behavior, antisocial behavior, and cognitive ability in a laboratory study

  • Author(s): Rode, Jacob Benjamin
  • Advisor(s): Ditto, Peter H
  • et al.

Two studies were conducted in order to understand the effects and perceptions of trash—unwanted, spoiled, or improperly discarded items. An exploratory correlational study investigated people’s attitudes and knowledge about trash and recycling, finding that participants lack knowledge about certain key recycling behaviors. Politically liberal individuals had more negative attitudes towards trash and positive attitudes towards recycling compared with politically conservative individuals. A laboratory study examined the effects of trash and disorder on behavior. Contrary to expectations, no statistically significant differences between conditions were found on creativity, donation to charity, or cheating. Participants in the orderly condition scored significantly higher on verbal GRE questions than those in the disorderly condition, but those in the trash-filled room did not score significantly different from either of the other two conditions on the GRE questions. The set of studies have important implications for trash and recycling policy, and bring further nuance into the discussion on the consequences of trash and disorder.

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