Persuading individuals to exchange habitual or unconscious behavior for new and often less convenient ways of living is challenging.

Contributing to the ongoing policy debate surrounding manipulation in social media and the global public debate on plastic pollution, Dr. Itziar Castello at the University of Surrey, David Barberá-Tomás from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Frank G. A. de Bakker from IÉSEG School of Management and Charlene Zietsma from Penn State University analyze how anti-plastic pollution activists use visual and verbal interactions to convert bystanders into social movement supporters.

The paper Energizing Through Visuals: How Social Entrepreneurs Use Emotion-Symbolic Work For Social Change explains that emotion-symbolic work—the deliberate production and use of shocking visuals to transform negative emotions into positive emotional energy and motivate behavioral change—instigates an emotional transformation process that influences people to identify with and enact a cause in their daily lives. Emotion-symbolic work helps individuals not only to acknowledge their culpability in plastic pollution, but inspire them to take action and refuse single-use plastics rather than rely on recycling.