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Open AccessArticle

Still Waters Run Deep: Comparing Assertive and Suggestive Language in Water Conservation Campaigns

Department of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa 39105, Israel
Manning School of Business, University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA 01854, USA
D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115, USA
The School of Business and Economics, The Vrije Universiteit, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Federmann School of Public Policy and Government, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2018, 10(3), 275;
Received: 1 November 2017 / Revised: 3 January 2018 / Accepted: 22 February 2018 / Published: 5 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Advances in the Economic Analysis of Residential Water Use)
The current work focuses on non-price policies to achieve residential water conservation, specifically on water conservation campaigns. The authors report the results of a large-scale longitudinal field experiment encouraging residential water conservation among 1500 households. The effectiveness of two commonly-used message phrasings is compared: an assertive and a suggestive message. Assertive messages employ a commanding tone, such as “You must conserve water”, whereas suggestive messages employ a more gentle approach, as in “Please consider conserving water”. Despite the ubiquitous use of assertive phrasing in pro-social messages, and previous research that suggests that, in some cases, assertive language can increase message compliance, the authors show here that the suggestive, gentler, message language can make a more accentuated change in residential water conservation behavior. This may stem from the status of water as a basic needs resource, which may reduce the appropriateness of freedom restricting language, such as an assertive tone. View Full-Text
Keywords: demarketing; assertive language; water conservation; controlled field experiment demarketing; assertive language; water conservation; controlled field experiment
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Katz, D.; Kronrod, A.; Grinstein, A.; Nisan, U. Still Waters Run Deep: Comparing Assertive and Suggestive Language in Water Conservation Campaigns. Water 2018, 10, 275.

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