Can social information programs be more effective? The role of environmental identity for energy conservation

Can social information programs be more effective? The role of environmental identity for energy conservation

Bonan J., Cattaneo C., d’Adda G., Tavoni M., (2021), Can social information programs be more effective? The role of environmental identity for energy conservation, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Available online 27 April 2021, 102467, DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2021.102467, webpage

Abstract

Social information programs are widely used to nudge behavioural change. Their effectiveness strongly depends on household and individual traits. The existing evidence in economics and psychology points to the role of environmental values and identity in determining pro-environmental behavior and the impact of social information. In a large field experiment on household energy conservation, we combine electricity metering and survey data to test whether the impact of a social information program can be strengthened by leveraging environmental values and identity. We experimentally augment social information messages with an environmental self-identity prime. The self-identity prime does not strengthen the effectiveness of a social information program on average. Nonetheless, we find suggestive evidence that priming environmental self-identity can be effective if targeted to specific sub-groups.Social information programs are widely used to nudge behavioural change. Their effectiveness strongly depends on household and individual traits. The existing evidence in economics and psychology points to the role of environmental values and identity in determining pro-environmental behavior and the impact of social information. In a large field experiment on household energy conservation, we combine electricity metering and survey data to test whether the impact of a social information program can be strengthened by leveraging environmental values and identity. We experimentally augment social information messages with an environmental self-identity prime. The self-identity prime does not strengthen the effectiveness of a social information program on average. Nonetheless, we find suggestive evidence that priming environmental self-identity can be effective if targeted to specific sub-groups.

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