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Commitment and Behavior Change: Evidence from the Field

Katie Baca-Motes, Amber Brown, Ayelet Gneezy, Elizabeth A. Keenan and Leif D. Nelson
Journal of Consumer Research
Vol. 39, No. 5 (February 2013), pp. 1070-1084
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.1086/667226
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Page Count: 15
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Commitment and Behavior Change: Evidence from the Field
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Influencing behavior change is an ongoing challenge in psychology, economics, and consumer behavior research. Building on previous work on commitment, self-signaling, and the principle of consistency, a large, intensive field experiment (N = 2,416) examined the effect of hotel guests’ commitment to practice environmentally friendly behavior during their stay. Notably, commitment was symbolic—guests were unaware of the experiment and of the fact that their behavior would be monitored, which allowed them to exist in anonymity and behave as they wish. When guests made a brief but specific commitment at check-in, and received a lapel pin to symbolize their commitment, they were over 25% more likely to hang at least one towel for reuse, and this increased the total number of towels hung by over 40%. This research highlights how a small, carefully planned intervention can have a significant impact on behavior. Theoretical and practical implications for motivating desired behavior are discussed.

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