A1: Environment

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A growing body of evidence shows that social pressure affects behavior in areas such as voting, retirement savings, and charitable giving. In the following video Prof. Robert Cialdini talks about the role of social norms in behavior change.

You may have noticed that hotels often place a small card in bathrooms that attempt to persuade guests to reuse their towels and linens. Most do this by drawing a guest’s attention to the benefits that reuse can have on environmental protection. It turns out that this is a pretty effective strategy, leading to around 35% compliance. But could there be an even more effective way? What would happen if the information on the cards said that 75% of our guests reuse their towels at some time during their stay, so please do so as well. It turns out that when we do this, towel reuse rises by 26%. Changing just a few words on a sign to honestly point out what comparable previous guests have done was the single most effective message, leading to a 33% increase in reuse. The science is telling us that rather than relying on our own ability to persuade others, we can point to what many others are already doing, especially many similar others.

Policymakers are increasingly concerned about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade programs, and subsidies for energy efficient goods are commonly proposed as solutions, but these programs are politically difficult to implement. An alternative to so-called “price-based” approaches are “behavioral” interventions that aim to affect energy consumption habits through education or persuasion. In the following video Alex Laskey (Opower) presents an intervention sending households home energy reports that compare their energy use to that of their neighbors and provide information about conservation techniques.

Many American utilities attempt to reduce their customers’ energy use to comply with state energy conservation mandates or because they are non-profit municipal utilities. To achieve this goal, some utilities contract Opower to mail personalized household energy reports. In 2012, 6.2 million households served by 85 utilities were receiving these reports, which compare a household’ s energy use to that of 100 neighbors with similar square footage and the same heating type. The reports also include advice for conserving energy and saving money.


Please answer the assignment based on the reading for this lecture.
Deadline: Wednesday, October 21 at 15:15.

Please connect to my Zoom (link in Absalon) on Wednesday, October 21 at 15:15.

Group 1 summarizes the three papers you have to read for today. Here their plan:

“We will start off by presenting the videos. First we will explain the social norm bias and how and why using it can be effective in tackling environmental issues. We will also provide one or two alternative examples of environmental issues that could be tackled with this approach.

  • Rikke will give an overall summary of the Opower intervention. She will explain the main results of “social norms and energy conservation” showing that the intervention caused less utility consumption on average. She will emphasize this by explaining  Figure 4 and 8.
  • Thorlek will continue with explain the main findings of “The Short-Run and Long-Run effects of Behavioral interventions”, showing how they should proceed with the intervention long term, in order to get the optimal results, given the implication of the findings in the short and long run. He will emphasize this through Figure 2 and 4.
  • Ludvig will present the results of the article “Energy conservation “nudges” and environmentalist ideolog”, showing how people with different political ideologies react quite differently on environmental nudges and why. He will emphasize this through Table 3 and 6.

We are going to give a reflection on the results and why this tool is relevant overall to tackling the current climate crisis.”

Remeber you have to read all the papers before the lecture and prepare your questions for the group.I expect an active discussion about each paper: ask all the questions you have (concepts, method, analysis, etc.) and disccuss the implications of these papers.

01 EnvironmentFor helping you summarize the material I link a short summary for paper 1 and 2 (here) and a short summary for paper 3 (here). 

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