Cognitive accessibility in judgments of household energy consumption

  • Schley D
  • DeKay M
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Individuals appear to use the frequency that they interact with and think about various energy-consuming devices (the cognitive accessibility of those devices) when estimating relative energy consumption. This conclusion is based on 3 studies in which 608 participants estimated the percentages of total individual and household energy consumed annually in the U.S. by several categories of devices (e.g., lighting, cooking, water heating, air conditioning, computers, private motor vehicles) and 1 study in which 125 participants made similar estimates for their own consumption. Additionally, seasonal and geographical variations in local temperature predicted national annual consumption estimates for home heating and air conditioning, with these relationships being mediated by cognitive accessibility. Changes in available information, including more accessible cross-category and cross-fuel comparisons, greater media attention to high-consumption categories and high-impact solutions, and more disaggregated feedback regarding household energy use, could potentially improve consumers' understanding of relative consumption and hence their energy-conservation decisions.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Availability heuristic
  • Energy conservation
  • Energy use
  • Numeracy
  • Quantitative judgment

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  • Dan R. Schley

  • Michael L. DeKay

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