Still waters run deep: Comparing assertive and suggestive language in water conservation campaigns

David Katz*, Ann Kronrod, Amir Grinstein, Udi Nisan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number275
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2018


  • Assertive language
  • Controlled field experiment
  • Demarketing
  • Water conservation

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