Working Paper

Rank and Response: A Field Experiment on Peer Information and Water Use Behavior

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... In this section we outline the basic econometric approach to measuring the effect of the treatments on expenditures and wellbeing. This analysis was pre-specified and registered at the AEA Social Science Registry prior to any analysis (Bhanot et al., 2015). ...
... From a practical perspective, messaging can be a very low to zero-marginal cost intervention, so even modest beneficial effects from messaging framing may be extremely cost effective. From a research perspective, a number of open questions about economic decisions can be explored through manipulations of messaging framing (Bhanot, 2015). ...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter takes rural residents from four villages in Chengdu as the research object in order to conduct research on the impact of building features and attitudes to water conservation. A total of 165 valid questionnaires are collected after face-to-face interviews. First, descriptive analysis is used to analyze the current situation of rural residents’ water conservation behavior. Second, exploratory factor analysis and the binary logistic regression model are used to explore the relationship between building characteristics, water conservation attitudes, and water conservation behavior. Results show that: (1) rural residents’ water conservation attitude plays an important role in water conservation behavior; with “environmental values” being the most significant factors, followed by “saving money and joint participation;” (2) rural building characteristics such as layout of the kitchen and shower facilities significantly affect the water conservation behavior of rural residents. Based on the analysis, several suggestions are offered for improving water-saving in rural Chengdu. These are strengthening the publicity and education of water-saving behavior, and subsidizing water-saving facilities. This research provides a theoretical basis for local government departments to formulate relevant policies, and serves as a reference for the protection of water resources in other rural areas.
Article
Full-text available
The prevailing use of competitive activities in leisure, sport and recreation continues to inspire debate as people question the value, influence and outcomes of competitive behaviour for participants. In some forums it has been suggested that competition builds character, brings out the best performance in an individual and develops a positive sense of sportsmanship (Butler, 2000; Coakley, 1990). By comparison, others critique the anti-social role of competition, claiming it can simultaneously lead to dissonance, hostility and a divisive desire to win at all costs (Sobel, 1983; Thomson, 2000). Within the general leisure and physical activity field, cooperative games are sometimes presented as the antithesis to this dilemma as it is proposed that cooperation leads to the development of respect, challenge and cohesion (Orlick, 1978; Sutcliff & Patterson, 2001). This study reports on the perceived value and use of competition and cooperation from the perspectives of 20 recreation activity leaders drawn from the fields of sport, outdoor recreation, fitness and community recreation. The findings suggest that both competition and cooperation are valid techniques for achieving positive outcomes if they are used with applied intent, but that many leaders have an under-developed understanding of the use of cooperation as an instructional tool. For many, cooperation is identified purely in a behavioural manner, composed of an observed outcome of client’s working together. For others, a more complex approach is evident as cooperation is viewed as a combination of actions and attitudes reflecting empathy, open communication and equity.
Article
Full-text available
Regulation and political opposition often force water utilities to rely on nonprice approaches to manage water demand. Using randomized field experiments in three different water utilities, we assess the effectiveness of social comparisons to reduce demand and analyze their interaction with existing conservation programs. In two utilities, the program decreases consumption by 5%, with significant heterogeneity across the distribution of baseline water use. We do not detect a statistically significant average treatment effect in the third utility. Social norms do not appear to crowd out existing conservation programs: treated households are more likely to participate in additional programs. Of the two utilities with significant treatment effects, higher participation rates in conservation programs account for a very small fraction of water savings (3%) in one utility and a modest fraction (9%–25%) in the second. We discuss evidence that social norms may induce participation among the specific type of consumers that utilities wish to target.
Article
Full-text available
The aim of the present study was to examine relations between behavior, intentions, attitudes, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, self-efficacy, and past behavior across studies using the Theories of Reasoned Action (TRA) and Planned Behavior (TPB) in a physical activity context. Meta-ana-lytic techniques were used to correct the correlations between the TRA/TPB constructs for statistical artifacts across 72 studies, and path analyses were conducted to examine the pattern of relationships among the variables. Results demonstrated that the TRA and TPB both exhibited good fit with the corrected correlation matrices, but the TPB accounted for more variance in physical activity intentions and behavior. In addition, self-efficacy explained unique variance in intention, and the inclusion of past behavior in the model resulted in the attenuation of the intention-behavior, attitude-intention, self-efficacy-intention, and self-efficacy-behavior relationships. There was some evidence that the study relationships were moderated by attitude-intention strength and age, but there was a lack of homogeneity in the moderator groups. It was concluded that the major relationships of the TRA/TPB were supported in this quantitative integration of the physical activity literature, and the inclusion of self-efficacy and past behavior are important additions to the model.
Article
Full-text available
Performance rankings are a very common workplace management practice. Behavioral theories suggest that providing performance rankings to employees, even without pecuniary consequences, may directly shape effort due to the rank's effect on self-image. In a three-year randomized control trial with full-time design where I vary (i) whether to privately inform employees about their performance rank; and (ii) whether to give benchmarks, i.e. data on current performance required to be in the top 10%, 25%, and 50%. The salespeople's compensation is only based on absolute performance via a high-powered commission scheme in which rankings convey no direct additional financial benefits. There are two important innovations in this experiment. First, prior to the start of the experiment all salespeople were told their performance ranking. Second, employees operate in a multi-tasking environment where they can sell multiple brands. There are four key results: First, removing rank feedback actually increases sales performance by 11%, or 1/10th of a standard deviation. Second, only men (not women) change their performance. Third, adding benchmarks to rank feedback significantly raises performance, but it is not significantly different from providing no feedback. Fourth, as predicted by the multi-tasking model, the treatment effect increases with the scope for effort substitution across furniture brands as employees switch their effort to other tasks when their rank is worse than expected.
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this paper is to test the effectiveness of wage-irrelevant goal setting policies in a laboratory environment. In our design, managers can assign a goal to their workers by setting a certain level of performance on the work task. To establish our theoretical conjectures we develop a model where assigned goals act as reference points to workers’ intrinsic motivation, creating a sense of gain when attained and a sense of loss when not attained. Consistent with our theoretical framework, we find evidence that managers set goals that are challenging but attainable for an average-ability worker. Workers respond to these goals by increasing effort, performance and by decreasing on-the-job leisure activities with respect to the no-goal setting baseline. We study the interaction between goal setting and monetary rewards by considering different values for the monetary incentives involved in completing the task. Interestingly, we find that goal setting is especially effective when monetary incentives are strong. These results suggest that goal setting may foster workers’ intrinsic motivation and increase their level of performance beyond what is achieved using solely monetary incentives.
Article
Full-text available
We present evidence from laboratory experiments showing that individuals are “last-place averse.” Participants choose gambles with the potential to move them out of last place that they reject when randomly placed in other parts of the distribution. In modified dictator games, participants randomly placed in second-to-last place are the most likely to give money to the person one rank above them instead of the person one rank below. Last-place aversion suggests that low-income individuals might oppose redistribution because it could differentially help the group just beneath them. Using survey data, we show that individuals making just above the minimum wage are the most likely to oppose its increase. Similarly, in the General Social Survey, those above poverty but below median income support redistribution significantly less than their background characteristics would predict. JEL Codes: H23, D31, C91.
Article
Full-text available
Meta-analysis is used to determine if there are factors that systematically affect price elasticity estimates in studies of residential water demand in the United States. An econometric model is estimated, using price elasticity estimates from previous studies as the dependent variable. Explanatory variables include functional form, cross-sectional versus time series, water price specification, rate structure, location, season, and estimation technique. Inclusion of income, rainfall, and evapotranspiration are all found to influence the estimate of the price elasticity. Population density, household size, and temperature do not significantly influence the estimate of the price elasticity. Pricing structure and season are also found to significantly influence the estimate of the price elasticity.
Article
Full-text available
Policymakers increasingly use norm-based messages to promote conservation efforts. Despite the apparent success of such strategies, empirical analyses have thus far focused exclusively on short-run effects. From a policy perspective, however, whether and how such strategies influence behavior in the long-run is of equal interest. We partner with a metropolitan water utility to implement a natural field experiment examining the effect of such messages on longer-run patterns of water use. Empirical results are striking. While appeals to pro-social preferences affect short-run patterns of water use, only messages augmented with social comparisons have a lasting impact on water demand.
Article
Full-text available
This quasi-experimental, seven-year study evaluated the effectiveness of an educative versus a price structuring approach to the strategic management of domestic water consumption. The Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behavior scales of the Water Survey Questionnaire (Watson, Moore, McLachlan, Bradley and Murphy, 1988) measured the effects of the two strategies on water conservation. Two thousand six hundred parents, teachers, high, and elementary students in cross-sectional and longitudinal samples were measured in three data gathering rounds at the first, fourth, and seventh years. In the educative phase between the first and second rounds, water conservation increased. Although there was no significant change in behavior, some decline in positive attitudes and intentions occurred during the price structuring phase between the second and third rounds. The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to other studies. Findings on the stability of inter-group and inter-variable relationships and on the consistency of the measuring instrument across time are also presented and discussed.
Article
Full-text available
Improved feedback on electricity consumption may provide a tool for customers to better control their consumption and ultimately save energy. This paper asks which kind of feedback is most successful. For this purpose, a psychological model is presented that illustrates how and why feedback works. Relevant features of feedback are identified that may determine its effectiveness: frequency, duration, content, breakdown, medium and way of presentation, comparisons, and combination with other instruments. The paper continues with an analysis of international experience in order to find empirical evidence for which kinds of feedback work best. In spite of considerable data restraints and research gaps, there is some indication that the most successful feedback combines the following features: it is given frequently and over a long time, provides an appliance-specific breakdown, is presented in a clear and appealing way, and uses computerized and interactive tools.
Article
Full-text available
Corruption in the public sector erodes tax compliance and leads to higher tax evasion. Moreover, corrupt public officials abuse their public power to extort bribes from the private agents. In both types of interaction with the public sector, the private agents are bound to face uncertainty with respect to their disposable incomes. To analyse effects of this uncertainty, a stochastic dynamic growth model with the public sector is examined. It is shown that deterministic excessive red tape and corruption deteriorate the growth potential through income redistribution and public sector inefficiencies. Most importantly, it is demonstrated that the increase in corruption via higher uncertainty exerts adverse effects on capital accumulation, thus leading to lower growth rates.
Article
Full-text available
Social comparison theories typically imply a comparable degree of competition between commensurate rivals who are competing on a mutually important dimension. However, the present analysis reveals that the degree of competition between such rivals depends on their proximity to a meaningful standard. Studies 1 to 3 test the prediction that individuals become more competitive and less willing to maximize profitable joint gains when they and their commensurate rivals are highly ranked (e.g., #2 vs. #3) than when they are not (e.g., #202 vs. #203). Studies 4 to 6 then generalize these findings, showing that the degree of competition also increases in the proximity of other meaningful standards, such as the bottom of a ranking scale or a qualitative threshold in the middle of a scale. Studies 7 and 8 further examine the psychological processes underlying this phenomenon and reveal that proximity to a standard exerts a direct impact on the basic unidirectional drive upward, beyond the established effects of commensurability and dimension relevance.
Article
"Nudge"-style interventions are often deemed successful if they generate large behavior change at low cost, but they are rarely subjected to full social welfare evaluations. We combine a field experiment with a simple theoretical framework to evaluate the welfare effects of one especially policy-relevant intervention, home energy social comparison reports. In our sample, the reports increase social welfare, although traditional evaluation approaches overstate gains because they ignore significant costs incurred by nudge recipients. Overall, home energy report welfare gains might be overstated by $620 million. We develop a prediction algorithm for optimal targeting; this approach would double the welfare gains.
Article
Presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of personal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of obstacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from 4 principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. Factors influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arise from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and behavioral changes. (21/2 p ref)
Article
We present evidence from laboratory experiments showing that individuals are ‘‘last-place averse.’’ Participants choose gambles with the potential to move them out of last place that they reject when randomly placed in other parts of the distribution. In modified dictator games, participants randomly placed in second-to-last place are the most likely to give money to the person one rank above them instead of the person one rank below. Last-place aversion suggests that low-income individuals might oppose redistribution because it could differ- entially help the group just beneath them. Using survey data, we show that individuals making just above the minimum wage are the most likely to oppose its increase. Similarly, in the General Social Survey, those above poverty but below median income support redistribution significantly less than their back- ground characteristics would predict.
Article
By providing feedback to customers on home electricity and natural gas usage with a focus on peer comparisons, utilities can reduce energy consumption at a low cost. We analyze data from two large-scale, random-assignment field experiments conducted by utility companies providing electricity (the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and electricity and natural gas (Puget Sound Energy (PSE), in partnership with a private company, Positive Energy/oPower, which provides monthly or quarterly mailed peer feedback reports to customers. We find reductions in energy consumption of 1.2% (PSE) to 2.1% percent (SMUD), with the decrease sustained over time (seven months (PSE) and twelve months (SMUD).
Article
Rank-order relative-performance evaluation, in which pay, promotion and symbolic awards depend on the rank of workers in the distribution of performance, is ubiquitous. Whenever firms use rank-order relative-performance evaluation, workers receive feedback about their rank. Using a real-effort experiment, we aim to discover whether workers respond to the specific rank that they achieve. In particular, we leverage random variation in the allocation of rank among subjects who exerted the same effort to obtain a causal estimate of the rank response function that describes how effort provision responds to the content of rank-order feedback. We find that the rank response function is U-shaped. Subjects exhibit 'first-place loving' and 'last-place loathing', that is subjects increase their effort the most after being ranked first or last. We discuss implications of our findings for the optimal design of firms' performance feedback policies, workplace organizational structures and incentives schemes.
Article
When effort is observable to peers, students may try to avoid social penalties by conforming to prevailing norms. To test this hypothesis, we first consider a natural experiment that introduced a performance leaderboard into computer-based high school courses. The result was a 24 percent performance decline. The decline appears to be driven by a desire to avoid the leaderboard; top performing students prior to the change, those most at risk of appearing on the leaderboard, had a 40 percent performance decline, while poor performing students improved slightly. We next consider a field experiment that offered students complimentary access to an online SAT preparatory course. Signup forms differed randomly across students only in whether they said the decision would be kept private from classmates. In non-honors classes, signup was 11 percentage points lower when decisions were public rather than private. Honors class signup was unaffected. For students taking honors and non-honors classes, the response depended on which peers they were with at the time of the offer, and thus to whom their decision would be revealed. When offered the course in a non-honors class (where peer signup rates are low), they were 15 percentage points less likely to sign up if the decision was public. But when offered the course in an honors class (where peer signup rates are high), they were 8 percentage points more likely to sign up if the decision was public. Thus, students are highly responsive to their peers are the prevailing norm when they make decisions.
Article
Demonstrating compelling causal evidence of the existence and strength of peer-to-peer influence has become the holy grail of modern research in online social networks. In these networks, it has been consistently demonstrated that user characteristics and behavior tend to cluster both in space and in time. There are multiple well-known rival mechanisms that compete to be the explanation for this observed clustering. These range from peer influence to homophily to other unobservable external stimuli. These multiple mechanisms lead to similar observational data, yet have vastly different policy implications. In this paper, we present a novel randomized experiment that tests the existence of causal peer influence in the general population-one that did not involve subject recruitment for experimentation-of a particular large-scale online social network. We utilize a unique social feature to exogenously induce adoption of a paid service among a group of randomly selected users, and in the process develop a clean exogenous randomization of treatment and control groups. A variety of nonparametric, semiparametric, and parametric approaches, ranging from resampling-based inference to ego-level random effects to logistic regression to survival models, yield close to identical, statistically and economically significant estimates of peer influence in the general population of a freemium social network. Our estimates show that peer influence causes more than a 60% increase in odds of buying the service due to the influence coming from an adopting friend. In addition, we find that users with a smaller number of friends experience stronger relative increase in the adoption likelihood due to influence from their peers as compared to the users with a larger number of friends. Our nonparametric resampling procedure-based estimates are helpful in situations of networked data that violate independence assumptions. We establish that peer influence is a powerful force in getting users from free to premium levels, a known challenge in freemium communities.
Article
This study used meta-analysis to assess the influence of price/price structures on residential water demand in two selected urban areas in California: East Los Angeles and South San Francisco. Monthly usage data for the years 2002-2011 were utilized to determine and compare price elasticities for periods when uniform and tiered rates were charged using fixed effects panel regression and Instrumental Variable methods. Price elasticities in East Los Angeles and South San Francisco were 0.39 and 0.22 under uniform rates and 0.44 and 0.43 under tiered rates, respectively. When customers in each city were divided into three groups based upon their lot sizes, those with larger lot sizes tended to react to pricing systems more strongly than those living on smaller lots. These findings will be helpful for water demand stakeholders and policymakers seeking to design and implement more effective water pricing policies to support sustainable water conservation efforts.
Article
This paper develops a theoretical model of consumer demand for an energy conservation program that involves non-binding, self-set goals. We present evidence from a Northern Illinois goal-setting program, aimed at reducing residential electricity consumption, that is difficult to reconcile with standard preferences and is broadly consistent with a model of presentbiased consumers with reference-dependent preferences. We find that the need for commitment is correlated with program adoption, higher pre-adoption consumption, and lower responsiveness to goals. Consumers choosing realistic goals persistently save substantially more, achieving savings of nearly 11%, than those choosing very low or unrealistically high goals.
Article
Money is the prime incentive considered in economic models. However, recent evidence indicates that people are also greatly concerned about their social rankings. Is this solely because rank brings tangible benefits, or because in addition people have an inherent preference for high rank? This paper deployed a field experiment that provides evidence for an inherent preference. In the experiment, Vietnamese students enrolled in an English course performed significantly better on the official standardized international final test when they were told their rankings on practice tests than when they were not. This result held even when this ranking information could not be reliably communicated, thus severely attenuating the potential to bring tangible or status benefits.
Article
Objective: This research examines how access to information on peer health behaviors affects one's own health behavior. Methods: We report the results of a randomized field experiment in a large corporation in which we introduced walkstations (treadmills attached to desks that enable employees to walk while working), provided employees with feedback on their own and their coworkers' usage, and assessed usage over 6 months. We report how we determined our sample size, and all data exclusions, manipulations, and measures in the study. Results: Walkstation usage declined most when participants were given information on coworkers' usage levels, due to a tendency to converge to the lowest common denominator-their least-active coworkers. Conclusion: This research demonstrates the impact of the lowest common denominator in physical activity: people's activity levels tend to converge to the lowest-performing members of their groups. This research adds to our understanding of the factors that determine when the behavior of others impacts our own behavior for the better-and the worse.
Article
Interventions to affect repeated behaviors, such as smoking, exercise, or workplace effort, can often have large short-run impacts but uncertain or disappointing long-run effects. We study one part of a large program designed to induce energy conservation, in which home energy reports containing personalized feedback, social comparisons, and energy conservation information are being repeatedly mailed to more than five million households across the United States. We show that treatment group households reduce electricity use within days of receiving each of their initial few reports, but these immediate responses decay rapidly in the months between reports. As more reports are delivered, the average treatment effect grows but the high-frequency pattern of action and backsliding attenuates. When a randomly-selected group of households has reports discontinued after two years, the effects are much more persistent than they had been between the initial reports, implying that households have formed a new "capital stock" of physical capital or consumption habits. We show how assumptions about long-run persistence can be important enough to change program adoption decisions, and we illustrate how program design that accounts for the capital stock formation process can significantly improve cost effectiveness.Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.
Article
This paper uses experimental data to analyze how competitive behavior is influenced by coaching and peer observation. We study behavior in a sequential contest, considering information about the effort level of subjects in other contests (observation of peers) and information about the payoff-maximizing effort level (coaching) as treatment variables. Presentation of peer effort has a significant impact on the effort levels of first movers but not on second movers’ effort levels. The decisions of second movers were positively influenced (in terms of payoffs) by coaching when this information was presented alone; however, when coaching was presented in combination with peer observation, the quality of second-mover decisions deteriorated.
Article
Social comparison consists of comparing oneself with others in order to evaluate or to enhance some aspects of the self. Evaluation of ability is concerned with the question “Can I do X?” and relies on the existence of a proxy performer. A proxy's relative standing on attributes vis‐à‐vis the comparer and whether the proxy exerted maximum effort on a preliminary task are variables influencing his or her informational utility. Evaluation of opinions is concerned with the questions “Do I like X?”“Is X correct?” and “Will I like X?” Important variables that affect an individual's use of social comparison to evaluate his or her opinions are the other person's expertise, similarity with the individual, and previous agreement with the individual. Whether social comparison serves a self-enhancement function depends on whether the comparer assimilates or contrasts his or her self relative to superior or inferior others. The kinds of self‐knowledge made cognitively accessible and variables such as mutability of self-views and distinctiveness of the comparison target may be important determinants of assimilation versus contrast.
Article
Voter turnout theories based on rational self-interested behavior generally fail to predict significant turnout unless they account for the utility that citizens receive from performing their civic duty. We distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving in accordance with a norm and extrinsic incentives to comply, and test the effects of priming intrinsic motives and applying varying degrees of extrinsic pressure. A large-scale field experiment involving several hundred thousand registered voters used a series of mailings to gauge these effects. Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received ailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors. These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social pressure as an inducement to political participation.
Article
We measure how receiving information about coworkers’ savings behavior affects recipients’ savings choices. Low-saving employees were sent a simplified 401(k) plan enrollment or contribution increase form. A randomized subset of forms included information on the (high) fraction of coworkers either participating in or contributing at least 6% of pay to the plan. We document an oppositional reaction: peer information decreased the savings of (unionized) recipients who were not eligible for automatic enrollment in the 401(k). We find no significant evidence that peer information altered the savings decisions of recipients who had previously opted out of automatic 401(k) enrollment.
Article
While commitment devices such as defaults and direct deposits from wages have been found to be highly effective to increase savings, they are unavailable to the millions of people worldwide who not have a formal wage bill. Self-help peer groups are an alternative commitment device that is widespread and highly accessible, but there is little empirical evidence evaluating their effectiveness. We conduct two randomized field experiments among low-income micro-entrepreneurs in Chile. The first experiment finds that self-help peer groups are very potent at increasing savings. In contrast, a more classical measure, a substantially increased interest rate, has no effect on the vast majority of participants. A second experiment is designed to unbundle the key elements of peer groups as a commitment device, through the use of regular text messages. It finds that surprisingly, actual meetings and peer pressure do not seem to be crucial in making self-help peer groups an effective tool to encourage savings.
Article
An experiment was designed to investigate the nature and impact of cognitive psyching strategies employed by competitive weight lifters on an analogue strength task. At an Olympic-style weight-lifting meet, volunteer subjects were randomly assigned to either an experimental or a control group. After baseline assessment of strength, experimental subjects were asked to use their favorite psyching strategy as a means of improving their performance on a final strength test. Control subjects were urged to strive toward improving their performance but were not instructed to psych themselves up. To minimize the effects of spontaneous (unrequested) psyching, control subjects were asked to engage in a distracting cognitive task during the preperformance interval. Results indicated that subjects who had been asked to psych themselves showed greater improvements in strength than did control subjects. Post experimental interviews suggested that four basic psyching strategies had been employed: (1) statements bearing on selfefficacy, (2) control of attention, (3) preparatory arousal, and (4) imagery techniques. Focus of attention was the most popular strategy. Implications of this study are briefly discussed.
Article
Consumers use simplified measurements as a basis for residential energy decisions. We analyze their measurements of monthly consumption, changes through time, comparison of appliances, and length of payback period. Because of systematic errors in quantification, consumers choose ineffective energy conservation actions, and underestimate the benefits of previous actions. These errors do not result solely from lack of information since they are made even by consumers who understand technical energymeasurement. To explain the persistence of a seemingly disadvantageous system, we show that consumer methods are cognitively efficient. They are easy to learn and use and are compatible with general-purpose budgeting tasks. However, they lead to higher energy use than would be economically optimal for either the individual or the nation.
Article
Room air-conditioner operation was studied in order to understand how energy consumption and peak power demand are determined by user needs, concepts, and behavior. In a multi-family building in New Jersey, thirteen room air conditioners were instrumented in eight apartments, and the residents were interviewed about their cooling needs, decisions about when to turn on their air-conditioning, and their conceptions and operationsof the units. Residents were not billed separately for electricity. They nevertheless limited their use of air-conditioning on the basis of many non-economic factors, including: daily schedule, folk theories about how air conditioners function and the body's heat tolerance, personal strategies for dealing with all machines, and beliefs and preferences concerning health, thermal comport, and alternative cooling strategies.Across physically similar apartments, seasonal air-conditioner energy consumption varied by two to three orders of magnitude while interior temperature varied by only 2.4 °C to 3.7 °C (4.3–6.7 °F). The least-frequent users were effectively achieving comport at greatly reduced energy consumption, but they were not reducing peak demand since they ran their units only on peak hours of the hottest days of the summer. Three-quarters of the residents did not use their thermostats, controlling cooling instead by switching their units on and off manually. Only one resident consistently let his air conditioner operate thermostatically, and many were not aware that their units had thermostats. The prevailing non-thermostatic mode was initially thought to indicate a need for user education. Further investigation suggests that the cause is in fact a startling mismatch of existing room air-conditioner controls to user needs, with a corresponding opportunity for fundamental redesign of controls.
Article
This study of water saving technology adoption and technology investment behavior for Florida strawberry farmers represents an application of the Theory of Planned Behavior. It is compared with the Theory of Reasoned Action, and the Theory of Derived Demand. The focus is on perceived control in the decisions, first, to become an adopter of conservation technology, and, second, to invest more capital in the technology. The results lend credence to the Planned Behavior Theory but also support Derived Demand Theory, in that actual financial capability (actual control) is found important. To predict technology adoption we may need to account for both perceived and actual control. Unfettered government control of farmer technology decisions could be counterproductive, suggesting technology policy may need to include a mix of moral suasion and incentives with more modest controls.
Article
The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
Article
Most US consumers are charged a near-constant retail price for electricity, despite substantial hourly variation in the wholesale market price. This paper evaluates the .rst program to expose residential consumers to hourly real time pricing (RTP). I .nd that enrolled households are statistically signi.cantly price elastic and that consumers responded by conserving energy during peak hours, but remarkably did not increase average consumption during o�-peak times. Welfare analysis suggests that program households were not su� ciently price elastic to generate efficiency gains that substantially outweigh the estimated costs of the advanced electricity meters required to observe hourly consumption. Although in electricity pricing, congestion pricing, and many other settings, economists.intuition is that prices should be aligned with marginal costs, residential RTP may provide an important real-world example of a situation where this is not currently welfare-enhancing given contracting or information costs.
Article
This paper evaluates a pilot program run by a company called OPOWER, previously known as Positive Energy, to mail home energy reports to residential utility consumers. The reports compare a household’s energy use to that of its neighbors and provide energy conservation tips. Using data from randomized natural field experiment at 80,000 treatment and control households in Minnesota, I estimate that the monthly program reduces energy consumption by 1.9 to 2.0 percent relative to baseline. In a treatment arm receiving reports each quarter, the effects decay in the months between letters and again increase upon receipt of the next letter. This suggests either that the energy conservation information is not useful across seasons or, perhaps more interestingly, that consumers’ motivation or attention is malleable and non-durable. I show that “profiling,” or using a statistical decision rule to target the program at households whose observable characteristics suggest larger treatment effects, could substantially improve cost effectiveness in future programs. The effects of this program provide additional evidence that non-price “nudges” can substantially affect consumer behavior.
Article
While conventional farming systems face serious problems of sustainability, organic agriculture is seen as a more environmentally friendly system as it favours renewable resources, recycles nutrients, uses the environment’s own systems for controlling pests and diseases, sustains ecosystems, protects soils, and reduces pollution. At the same time organic farming promotes animal welfare, the use of natural foodstuffs, product diversity and the avoidance of waste, among other practices. However, the future of organic agriculture will depend on its economic viability and on the determination shown by governments to protect these practices. This paper performs panel regressions with a sample of Catalan farms (Spain) to test the influence of organic farming on farm output, costs and incomes. It analyses the cost structures of both types of farming and comments on their social and environmental performance.
Article
The present article presents an integrative theoretical framework to explain and to predict psychological changes achieved by different modes of treatment. This theory states that psychological procedures, whatever their form, alter the level and strength of self-efficacy. It is hypothesized that expectations of per- sonal efficacy determine whether coping behavior will be initiated, how much effort will be expended, and how long it will be sustained in the face of ob- stacles and aversive experiences. Persistence in activities that are subjectively threatening but in fact relatively safe produces, through experiences of mastery, further enhancement of self-efficacy and corresponding reductions in defensive behavior. In the proposed model, expectations of personal efficacy are derived from four principal sources of information: performance accomplishments, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. The more de- pendable the experiential sources, the greater are the changes in perceived self- efficacy. A number of factors are identified as influencing the cognitive processing of efficacy information arising from enactive, vicarious, exhortative, and emotive sources. The differential power of diverse therapeutic procedures is analyzed in terms of the postulated cognitive mechanism of operation. Findings are reported from microanalyses of enactive, vicarious, and emotive modes of treatment that support the hypothesized relationship between perceived self-efficacy and be- havioral changes. Possible directions for further research are discussed.
Article
We first establish the association between binge eating and dieting and present sequence data indicating that dieting usually precedes binging, chronologically. We propose that dieting causes binging by promoting the adoption of a cognitively regulated eating style, which is necessary if the physiological defense of body weight is to be overcome. The defense of body weight entails various metabolic adjustments that assist energy conservation, but the behavioral reaction of binge eating is best understood in cognitive, not physiological, terms. By supplanting physiological regulatory controls with cognitive controls, dieting makes the dieter vulnerable to disinhibition and consequent overeating. Implications for therapy are discussed, as are the societal consequences of regarding dieting as a "solution" to the problem of binging.
Article
The psychological principles that govern the perception of decision problems and the evaluation of probabilities and outcomes produce predictable shifts of preference when the same problem is framed in different ways. Reversals of preference are demonstrated in choices regarding monetary outcomes, both hypothetical and real, and in questions pertaining to the loss of human lives. The effects of frames on preferences are compared to the effects of perspectives on perceptual appearance. The dependence of preferences on the formulation of decision problems is a significant concern for the theory of rational choice.
Article
Despite a long tradition of effectiveness in laboratory tests, normative messages have had mixed success in changing behavior in field contexts, with some studies showing boomerang effects. To test a theoretical account of this inconsistency, we conducted a field experiment in which normative messages were used to promote household energy conservation. As predicted, a descriptive normative message detailing average neighborhood usage produced either desirable energy savings or the undesirable boomerang effect, depending on whether households were already consuming at a low or high rate. Also as predicted, adding an injunctive message (conveying social approval or disapproval) eliminated the boomerang effect. The results offer an explanation for the mixed success of persuasive appeals based on social norms and suggest how such appeals should be properly crafted.
Article
Experimental economists are leaving the reservation. They are recruiting subjects in the field rather than in the classroom, using field goods rather than induced valuations, and using field context rather than abstract terminology in instructions. We argue that there is something methodologically fundamental behind this trend. Field experiments differ from laboratory experiments in many ways. Although it is tempting to view field experiments as simply less controlled variants of laboratory experiments, we argue that to do so would be to seriously mischaracterize them. What passes for "control" in laboratory experiments might in fact be precisely the opposite if it is artificial to the subject or context of the task. We propose six factors that can be used to determine the field context of an experiment: the nature of the subject pool, the nature of the information that the subjects bring to the task, the nature of the commodity, the nature of the task or trading rules applied, the nature of the stakes, and the environment that subjects operate in.
The persuasive eects of partisan campaign mailers. The Political Research Quarterly
  • D Doherty
  • E S Adler
Doherty, D. and Adler, E. S. (2014). The persuasive eects of partisan campaign mailers. The Political Research Quarterly, 67(3):562573.
Finding the right price for water. The Atlantic
  • B Lam
Lam, B. (2015). Finding the right price for water. The Atlantic.
Advances in Motivation and Achievement, chapter Current Directions in SelfEcacy Research
  • F Pajares
Pajares, F. (1997). Advances in Motivation and Achievement, chapter Current Directions in SelfEcacy Research. JAI Press, Greenwich.
How does peer pressure aect educational investments? The Corgnet Goal setting and monetary incentives: When large stakes are not enough
  • L Bursztyn
  • R Jensen
  • B Gomez-Minambres
  • J Hernan-Gonzalez
Bursztyn, L. and Jensen, R. (2015). How does peer pressure aect educational investments? The Corgnet, B., Gomez-Minambres, J., and Hernan-Gonzalez, R. (2015). Goal setting and monetary incentives: When large stakes are not enough. Management Science, 61(12):29262944.
Governor brown directs rst ever statewide mandatory water reductions
  • J Brown
Brown, J. (2015). Governor brown directs rst ever statewide mandatory water reductions.