Conserving Energy and Water at University of California at Santa Cruz with the Use of Norms and Prompts

Aronson, E. & O'Leary, M. (1982-83). The relative effectiveness of models and prompts on energy conservation: A field experiment in a shower room. Journal of Environmental Systems, 12, 3, 219-224.
Summary
After conducting a literature review, a norm appeal was incorporated into a pilot program designed to conserve water at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Although a sign prompt in the men's shower room reminded bathers to turn off the water while they soaped up, only a small number were obeying this request. Therefore, norms were incorporated in order to increase the effectiveness of the program. Specifically, a confederate in the shower room modeled the desired behavior. At the same time, another student unobtrusively observed the bather's behavior. Although the confederate did not speak to the bathers, the simple demonstration of compliance had a striking effect on water consumption in the shower room.

When only the sign prompt was used to encourage water conservation, 6% of bathers turned off the water while they soaped up. In contrast, when a fellow university student modeled the desired behavior, 49% complied. Furthermore, 67% followed the example when 2 confederates created the norm.
Results


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