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Cognitive Dissonance and Energy Conservation

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Applied Psychology, Volume 69, Number 3, p.416-421 (1984)



energy efficiency, feedback, knowledge


Examined whether high consumers of electricity placed in a cognitively dissonant situation would conserve electricity over a 4-wk period. 272 households in Perth, Western Australia, owning ducted air conditioning and consuming above-average amounts of electricity were included in the study. Four experimental groups were compared. The 4 groups were as follows: (a) the dissonance plus tips plus feedback group, who were informed of an inconsistency between their previously measured attitudes toward conservation and actual high consumption of electricity; (b) the feedback plus tips group, who were notified that they were high consumers of electricity; (c) the tips-only group, who were sent information on ways to conserve electricity (also sent to Groups 1 and 2); and (d) the control group, who were sent a thank-you letter for participating in the study. It was found, in keeping with bolstering behavior predictions of cognitive dissonance theory, that the dissonance group conserved more electricity than all other groups in the 1st 2-wk measurement period. For the 2nd 2-wk measurement period, the dissonance group differed only from the control group. Self-reported behavior change and number of requests for additional conservation materials were not reliable indicators of actual conservation behavior.