People are Strange: Current Behavioral Insights into Energy Usage

October 10, 2011 - 12:00pm
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I will be sharing some of the ACEEE Behavioral Program staff's top picks for useful insights and theories about how and why people manage energy in ways that sometimes seem counter-intuitive. It is the firm belief of this researcher that there is no such thing as the autonomous, rational, decision-making actor; rather, economic activity such as energy management takes place in a complex context of social relations, values, habits, and beliefs, which are acquired over the life-time of an individual and may reflect such diverse factors as gender, socio-economic status, culture of origin, and position along the life-cycle trajectory. The staff of the Behavior program is drawing on work from across the spectrum of ths social sciences, including but not limited to anthropology, psychology, and behavioral economics. Factors influencing the ways in which people handle their encounters with energy include aspects such as the status of innovating actors, the role of religious institutions and their membership within a community, and engaging people in systems of reciprocity. To improve the likelihood of positive, persistent change in terms of energy consumption, researchers have played with 'opt-out only' systems, 'soft' openings via small initial requests, and preemptively giving 'gifts'. Our goal at the Behavior Program is to take such academic insights, and turn them into robust, testable hypotheses, with the ultimate aim being to move them closer to actionable product or program concepts. To this end, we are developing a dynamic research agenda which we will be making public for the first time, to LBNL staff.

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