Are academics messy? Testing the broken windows theory with a field experiment in the work environment

Ramos, Joao & Torgler, Benno (2012) Are academics messy? Testing the broken windows theory with a field experiment in the work environment. Review of Law & Economics, 8(3), pp. 563-577.

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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%.

Impact and interest:

3 citations in Scopus
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ID Code: 56414
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
DOI: 10.1515/1555-5879.1617
ISSN: 1555-5879 (online) 2194-6000 (print)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Economics & Finance
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Walter de Gruyter
Copyright Statement: The final publication is available at
Deposited On: 15 Jan 2013 01:59
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2013 14:10

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