We test the broken windows theory using a field experiment in a shared area of an academic workplace (the department common room). More specifically, we explore academics’ and postgraduate students’ behavior under an order condition (a clean environment) and a disorder condition (a messy environment). We find strong evidence that signs of disorderly behavior trigger littering: In 59% of the cases, subjects litter in the disorder treatment as compared to 18% in the order condition. These results remain robust in a multivariate analysis even when controlling for a large set of factors not directly examined by previous studies. Overall, when academic staff and postgraduate students observe that others have violated the social norm of keeping the common room clean, all else being equal, the probability of littering increases by around 40%.
©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston