Competition and norms: A self-defeating combination?

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Abstract

This paper investigates the effects of information feedback mechanisms on electricity and heating usage at a student hall of residence in London. In a randomised control trial, we formulate different treatments such as feedback information and norms, as well as prize competition among subjects. We show that information and norms lead to a sharp – more than 20% - reduction in overall energy consumption. Because participants do not pay for their energy consumption this response cannot be driven by cost saving incentives. Interestingly, when combining feedback and norms with a prize competition for achieving low energy consumption, the reduction effect – while present initially – disappears in the long run. This could suggest that external rewards reduce and even destroy intrinsic motivation to change behaviour.

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Alberts, G., Gurguc, Z., Koutroumpis, P., Martin, R., Muûls, M., & Napp, T. (2016). Competition and norms: A self-defeating combination? Energy Policy, 96, 504–523. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2016.06.001

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