The Effect of Mild and Strong Public Commitments on Energy Conservation in Jackson, Michigan

Shippee, G. E., & Gregory, W. L. (1982). Public commitment and energy conservation. American Journal of Community Psychology, 10, 1, 81-93.
Commitment is often an effective behavior change tool in promoting sustainable behavior. After conducting a literature review, two types of commitment were identified as influential in reducing energy consumption. Consequently, a pilot program was designed to evaluate these forms of commitment. Twenty-three small commercial industrial firms in Jackson, Michigan were asked to participate and were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. First, the mild commitment group had their names publicized in a local newspaper advertisement which identified them as participants in a conservation program. In addition to the publication of their names, the strong commitment group had their energy savings published. The advertisements appeared bimonthly for two months. Conversely, a control condition did not receive any advertisements. However, all three groups received information on energy conservation, as well as an individual audit. Both electricity and natural gas consumption were monitored and compared to the previous year's usage.

It was anticipated that the strong commitment group would consume less energy than the other group. However, this was not the case. The mild commitment group used 30% less natural gas than in the previous year. Although the strong commitment group did use 14% less natural gas than the control group, the consumption actually increases 1% from the previous year. There were no significant energy savings with respect to electricity. Interestingly, participants in the strong commitment group were more likely to overestimate the amount that they were conserving.
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