PrimingĀ for Sustainability


  • Nudging for sustainability
  • Thesis research question
  • Set of computer speakers designed with and without priming stimuli
  • Alarm clock designed with and without priming stimuli
  • Set of bowls designed with and without priming stimuli

Sustainability is an area that is given ever-increasing attention. From the everyday consumer to the skilled researcher and savvy businessman, sustainability has become a buzzword of growing importance. Initiatives promoting a sustainable society are not a rarity in the media or on the political agenda and the focus of these initiatives range from big scale projects on national level to minor interventions levelled at the individual user. As the development in technological efficiency progresses, a need to look further into how the consumers can contribute to a sustainable society appears. This field does not only present potential revenue for companies, but user awareness is also crucial in the transition to the future energy system. This project set out to explore the field of user behaviour interventions by introducing theories in design psychology to enhance sustainable behaviour on a subconscious level. By the use of priming embedded in the design features of everyday products, this project proved that it is possible to affect people to prioritise sustainability to a greater extent through subconscious interventions.

The work on the project began with a comprehensive review of studies and literature in the field of behavioural science and social psychology. The focus of this analysis was to gain knowledge on the different methods and strategies that are being, and have previously been, used for influencing behaviour and decision-making.

Based on the academic review we designed two studies that would help us test our hypothesis about using priming as tool for subconsciously affecting users. The first study consisted of several guided creative sessions with undergraduate students. The outcome was used in a conceptual development process to design specific products with built in stimuli. These products were then used in the second study, which was a randomised control trial exposing users to either subconscious priming stimuli or neutral stimuli and testing the effects these had on general awareness of sustainability.

From the results we found that the subconscious priming stimuli that we discovered as well as our method for exposing users to these stimuli had a statistically significant positive effect on the users awareness and attitude towards sustainability.

The findings from the thesis has since completion been written into an academic journal article.