The Meaning of Normative Processes for Energy Conservation

Midden, C. J. & Ritsema, B. S. (1983). The meaning of normative processes for energy conservation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 4, 1-2, 37-55.

A national survey of 1,076 people was conducted in the Netherlands on attitudes, beliefs, norms, intentions, and behavior with respect to energy conservation. The questionnaire was constructed according to M. Fishbein's (Fishbein and I. Ajzen, 1975) model of attitude)ehavior relations. The present authors examine theoretically the basic dimensions of normative influence. An analysis was made of the impact of normative pressure on energy conservation based on questionnaire data. Results indicate that energy conservation consists of a heterogeneous set of behaviors and that a general disposition to conserve energy does not exist. Many people experience some pressure from others with respect to energy conservation, but institutional reference groups were seen as stronger in sending these norms than personal reference groups. The impact of social norms on intentions to conserve energy appeared to be rather weak, which leads to a pessimistic view about the effectiveness of a normative approach. Only in specific situations where basic conditions are met, such as the possibility of monitoring and sanctioning, may one be more optimistic. The nuclear family is suggested as a social system with a strong potential for influencing conservation behavior.

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