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Using social dynamics to explain uptake in energy saving measures: Lessons from space conditioning interventions in Japan and California

  • Author(s): Outcault, Sarah
  • Sanguinetti, Angela
  • Pritoni, Marco
  • et al.
Abstract

The authors ran a pair of interventions to encourage passive cooling measures in two sustainable energy communities: E-Sogo in Japan and West Village in the United States. The interventions used proven levers for encouraging behavior change (among adult household members), but yielded modest results. Traditional methods of evaluating intervention effectiveness do not reveal why responses are weak, so the authors examined participants’ experiences using qualitative data collected during the intervention. Three critical flaws were identified; namely, the interventions had targeted a single household member, promoted measures that impact other members, and failed to support coordination within the household. To understand why those shortcomings led to weak results, the study examines the intersection of the social attributes of cooling measures (i.e., locus of decision and impact on others) and the prevailing social dynamics within households. A game-theoretical model is developed to illustrate how the varied combinations of measure attributes and social dynamics can yield different outcomes across households. By examining the failures of commonly accepted social science methods, the study sheds light on the intersection of social dynamics and household energy practices, a line of inquiry which, when extended further, could make energy interventions more effective and socially valid.

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