“For instance, in one study, researchers asked each of four groups of utility customers to cut energy consumption for a different reason — the good of the planet, the well-being of future generations, the financial ‘People don’t just want to conserve energy,’ one psychologist says, ‘they want to be acknowledged for conserving energy.’ savings, or because their neighbors were doing it.
“By comparing electric meter readings, the researchers determined that only the last message had any effect, eliciting a 10 percent drop in consumption.
“A subsequent study found that when electric bills compared a customer’s energy consumption against the neighborhood average, profligate customers scaled back. In fact, the social norm was so powerful that thrifty customers also responded, by splurging. The weirdly effective fix was to add a smiley face to the thrifty bills — like a gold star from teacher.
“’People don’t just want to conserve energy,’ says Arizona State University psychologist Robert B. Cialdini, ‘they want to be acknowledged for conserving energy.’”
Via Word of Mouth radio.