Knowing that your neighbor cares about the environment encourages people to use less energy

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Giving people information about how much gas or electricity their neighbors use encourages them to use less energy, according to research.

People are also more motivated to use less gas or electricity if they think that those living in the neighborhood are worried about saving the environment. The findings of the study may be useful for energy suppliers and policy makers, while they are working to help customers and citizens save energy.

Dr. Oliver Hauser of the University of Exeter Business School, one of the two main authors of the study, said: "Many of us generally agree that reducing energy consumption is necessary to help the environment and to help our planet We have found that if we succeed, we must believe that others also attach importance to it: people believe, rightly or wrongly, that a majority of people around them know what is right – and they are afraid they might be betrayed if they behave in a different way. "

Jon Jachimowicz of Columbia Business School, the other lead author of the study, said: "We have found that people who believe that their neighbors are concerned about energy savings are likely to save energy, which shows that not only most other people do that matters to us, but also whether we believe they care about this specific behavior. "

The American company Opower sends more than 60 million households around the world energy bills that show their own energy consumption in relation to the energy consumed by their neighbors. The provision of this information has led to customers having reduced their energy consumption – to date, this intervention has saved more than $ 2 billion USD in energy consumption.

However, not all energy bills that contain this information have led to the same amount of energy savings. The new study, published in Nature Human behavior, analyzed data from more than 16 million households in the United States for seven years in the 27 US states in which Opower is active, and found that the same "descriptive social norm" information about energy bills in some countries saves 2.55 percent of the energy savings yielded countries, but only led to a reduction of 0.81 percent in other countries.

Mr. Jachimowicz said, "We were intrigued to see that the same account had different effects on energy savings in the United States." Why did households in Minnesota react more strongly to descriptive social norms than households in Indiana? "" We decided to investigate this by adding an extra bill. conduct research that evokes people's beliefs and beliefs about energy saving and the environment. "

The researchers questioned more than 2,000 people in the same 27 US states where Opower operates and is found in states where respondents indicated that their neighbors were concerned about saving energy, providing information about neighbors' energy consumption was much more effective in changing of behavior. Another controlled experiment by academics as part of the same study provided more evidence showing that people are strongly influenced by what they think their neighbors consider important.

Dr. Hauser said: "In US states, where people thought that their neighbors placed a high value on energy saving, Omower's information about neighbor's energy consumption is associated with greater energy savings – in places where people thought their neighbors did not care, it was associated with much lower energy savings. "

"The behavior of others can be used to encourage people to be more efficient in their energy use – both to save money and to protect the environment, especially in places where people care what their neighbors think of them are very valuable to energy companies, while they work to help customers save money and protect the environment. "

The critical role of normative beliefs of the second order in predicting energy saving has been published in the journal Nature Human behavior.

Explore further:
The company makes energy bills more understandable, suggesting how energy can be saved

More information:
The crucial role of normative beliefs of the second order in predicting energy savings, Nature Human behavior (2018). DOI: 10.1038 / s41562-018-0434-0,

Reference of the magazine:
Nature Human behavior

Supplied by:
University of Exeter

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