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Cleaning up our acts: Psychological interventions to reduce engine idling and improve air quality

Abrams, D. and Lalot, F. and Hopthrow, T. and Templeton, A. and Steeden, B. and Özkeçeci, H. and Imada, H. and Warbis, S. and Sandiford, D. and Meleady, R. and Fell, E. and Abrams, Z. and Abrams, A. and Ngan, X. Q. and Celina, S. and Tanyeri, A. and Gammon, M. and Abrams, B. and Fischer, L. and Drysdale, S. and Dewi, R. and Leite, A. C. and Mills, A. and Peckham, S. (2021) 'Cleaning up our acts: Psychological interventions to reduce engine idling and improve air quality.', Journal of environmental psychology., 74 . p. 101587.


A large-scale field experiment tested psychological interventions to reduce engine idling at long-wait stops. Messages based on theories of normative influence, outcome efficacy, and self-regulation were displayed approaching railway crossing on street poles. Observers coded whether drivers (N = 6049) turned off their engine while waiting at the railway crossings (only 27.2% did so at baseline). Automatic air quality monitors recorded levels of pollutants during barrier down times. To different degrees, the social norm and outcome efficacy messages successfully increased the proportion of drivers who turned off their engines (by 42% and 25%, respectively) and significantly reduced concentrations of atmospheric particulate matter (PM2.5) 2 m above ground level. Thus, the environment was improved through behavior change. Moreover, of both practical and theoretical significance, there was an ‘accelerator effect’, in line with theories of normative influence whereby the social norm message was increasingly effective as the volume of traffic increased.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 15 March 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Publisher statement:© 2021 This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Date accepted:11 March 2021
Date deposited:29 July 2021
Date of first online publication:15 March 2021
Date first made open access:15 March 2023

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