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Psychological Research for the New Energy Problems: Strategies and Opportunities

Publication Type:

Journal Article


American Psychologist, Volume 47, Number 10, p.1213-1223 (1992)



Recent concern with environmental problems has rekindled interest in energy conservation. To illustrate how psychologists can make useful contributions and how a changed energy situation calls for different interventions, this article reviews knowledge from past research and draws lessons from past experiences of psychologists working in the politicized environment of utility regulation. Because low energy prices have weakened immediate financial motives for conservation, to produce consumption change one must now add incentives, appeal to nonfinancial motives, and make available more choices that are consistent with proconservation attitudes. Psychologists can help make the policy levers available more effective, but to be effective themselves they must consider the reinforcement contingencies that govern the behavior of decision makers who might use their advice.