The Persistent Impacts of Norm-Based Messaging and Their Implications for Water Conservation
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
Although an increasing number of studies have demonstrated the short-term impacts of behavioral nudges to achieve public policy objectives, less is known about their longer-term impacts. In a randomized experimental design with over 100,000 households, we study the longer-term impacts of a one-time behavioral nudge that aimed to induce voluntary reductions in water use during a drought. Combining technical information, moral suasion, and social comparisons, the nudge has a surprisingly persistent effect. Although its effect size declines by almost 50% after 1 year, it remains detectable and policy-relevant six years later. In fact, the total reduction in water use achieved after the 4-month period targeted by the intervention is larger than the total reduction achieved during the target period. Further analysis suggests that the intervention works through both short-lived behavioral adjustments and longer-lived adjustments to habits or physical capital. Treatment effects are not detectable in homes from which the treated consumers have moved, which provides suggestive evidence that these longer-lived adjustments are mobile rather than incorporated into the housing stock. The persistence of the effect makes the intervention more cost-effective than previously assumed (cost drops by almost 60%). Nevertheless, water utilities may find this persistence undesirable if the nudges are intended to have only a short-run effect on demand during environmental emergencies.
- Allcott, H (2011) Social norms and energy conservation. Journal of Public Economics 95: pp. 1082-1095 CrossRef
- Allcott, H., & Rogers, T. (2012). The short-run and long-run effects of behavioral interventions: experimental evidence from energy conservation. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 18492.
- Ayres, I, Raseman, S, Shih, A (2013) Evidence from two large field experiments that peer comparison feedback can reduce residential energy usage. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 29: pp. 992-1022 CrossRef
- Bonell, C, McKee, M, Fletcher, A, Wilkinson, P, Haines, A (2011) One nudge forward, two steps back. British Medical Journal 342: pp. d401 CrossRef
- Cialdini, RB, Demaine, LJ, Sagarin, BJ, Barrett, DW, Rhoads, K, Winter, PL (2006) Managing social norms for persuasive impact. Social Influence 1: pp. 3-15 CrossRef
- Davis, L Evaluating the slow adoption of energy efficient investments: are renters less likely to have energy efficient appliances?. In: Fullerton, D, Wolfram, C eds. (2012) The design and implementation of U.S. climate policy. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
- Dolan, P. & Metcalfe, R. (2013). Neighbors, knowledge, and nuggets: two natural field experiments on the role of incentives on energy conservation. CEP Discussion Paper No 1222. London, United Kingdom.
- Fanning, J.L. (2003). Water use in Georgia by county for 2000 and water-use trends for 1980–2000. Georgia Geologic Survey Information Circular 106. Georgia Geologic Survey, Atlanta, Georgia.
- Ferraro, P.J., Miranda, J. J., & Price, M. (2011). The persistence of treatment effects with non-pecuniary policy instruments: evidence from a randomized environmental policy experiment. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings, 101(3), 318–322.
- Ferraro, PJ, Miranda, JJ (2013) Heterogeneous treatment effects and mechanisms in information-based environmental policies: evidence from a large-scale field experiment. Resource and Energy Economics 35: pp. 318-322 CrossRef
- Ferraro, PJ, Price, M (2013) Using non-pecuniary strategies to influence behavior: evidence from a large-scale field experiment. The Review of Economics and Statistics 95: pp. 64-73 CrossRef
- Festinger, L (1954) A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations 7: pp. 117-140 CrossRef
- Goldstein, NJ, Cialdini, RB, Griskevicius, V (2008) A room with a viewpoint: using social norms to motivate environmental conservation in hotels. Journal of Consumer Research 35: pp. 472-482 CrossRef
- Kurz, T, Donaghue, N, Walker, I (2005) Utilizing a social-ecological framework to promote water and energy conservation: a field experiment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 35: pp. 1281-1300 CrossRef
- Nolan, JM, Schultz, PW, Cialdini, RB, Goldstein, NJ, Griskevicius, V (2008) Normative social influence is underdetected. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34: pp. 913-923 CrossRef
- Schultz, P, Nolan, JM, Cialdini, RB, Goldstein, NJ, Griskevicius, V (2007) The constructive, destructive and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological Science 18: pp. 429-434 CrossRef
- Shafir, E (2013) The behavioural foundations of public policy. Princeton University Press, New Jersey
- Thaler, RH, Sustain, CR (2008) Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness. Penguin, London
- The Persistent Impacts of Norm-Based Messaging and Their Implications for Water Conservation
Journal of Consumer Policy
Volume 37, Issue 3 , pp 437-452
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer US
- Additional Links
- Long-term impacts
- Behavioral channels
- Other regarding
- Environmental policy
- Social norms
- Industry Sectors