Sensors & Behavior (ARPA-E) > Behavioral Interventions

Collective Action Feedback Interface

Does framing efforts to save energy as part of a communal goal–"We're doing this together!"–get people to use less energy than stating a fact about how much other people have reduced use? Does either pitch achieve more than just presenting energy savings tips?

City of Mountain View Energy Saving Program

Investigators: Greg Walton, Gregg Sparkman, Julia Clark, Dave Paunesku, Steve Schmidt, Lisa Schmidt, Carrie Armel, Tammy Luo, June Flora

The opportunity to participate in a collective endeavor has been shown to be a powerful source of motivation, such as in academic achievement, though it has not been tested with environmental behaviors. A related approach—descriptive norms—has been shown to be effective in reducing energy consumption, such as reusing hotel towels. The two studies in this project, one on energy and one on water use, separated messages about communal effort from descriptive norms to determine which is more effective. In the energy study, researchers simultaneously tested whether providing several energy-saving tips on a particular topic, such as lighting, computers or heating, is more effective than mixing various energy-saving suggestions.

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Publications and Presentations

Home Energy Savings: The Role of Feedback and a Sense of Togetherness
Conference of Stanford University Energy & Environment Affiliates Program
Sparkman, G., Clark, J., Schmidt, S., Schmidt, L. & Walton, G. (2013)

The Role of Togetherness in descriptive norm effects in Home Energy Savings
Manuscript in preparation
Sparkman, G., Clark, J., Paunesku, D., Schmidt, S., Schmidt, L. & Walton, G. (2013).

Future Work

Research on the effects of norms will focus on understanding when norms, particularly social norms invoking togetherness, are successful in motivating behavioral change and when they are likely to cause negative reactions for intervention participants.