Elke U. Weber, Columbia University
Overcoming Barriers to Smart Grids & New Energy ServicesUT Austin Interdisciplinary Energy Conference, April 7-8, 2011
Smart Grid, Smart Decisions?
If you build it, they may not comeBarriers to Behavior ChangeInformation DeficitsAttention DeficitsMotivation Deficits
Information DeficitsMetrics matterCarbon footprint metric has created new goals
Information DeficitsMetrics neededCarbon footprint metric created new goals Timely feedback crucial for learningDesire to improve a powerful goalReal-time feedback one of the addictive properties of video games
Attention DeficitsFinite attention requires selectivity
Selectivity makes us myopicFocus on status quoFraming outcomes as gains or lossesRelative comparisonsLoss aversionPresent bias for intertemporal decisionsOutcomes (cost savings) in the future are disproportionately discounted
(Smart meter) info & feedback displaysProvide understandable unitskWs vs. # of 100W incandescent lightbulbsFacilitate relative comparisons Improvements relative to last month, last year, best neighbor, etc.
Motivation DeficitsStatus-quo biasInertia, risk aversion, loss aversionBiased argument recruitment (Query Theory)
Insufficient trustIn companies/utilities, government agencies*
Multiple Ways of Making DecisionsDecisions get made in qualitatively different ways (Weber & Lindemann, 2007)by the head calculation-based decisionsby the heart emotion-based decisionsby the book rule-based decisions
Behavior change with calculation-based decisionsUphill battlemany decision biases will work against youDiscounting, loss aversion, status-quo biases
Make environmentally-responsible and socially-desirable options the default (Johnson & Goldstein, 2003; Thaler & Sunstein, 2008) E.g., in building codes, energy choices
Prime social goalsApollo-8 image of planet earthUse of group settings to communicate information
Behavior change with emotion-based decisionsTempting to scare people into right behavior
Problematic for at least two reasonsFinite pool of worryIncrease in worry about one hazard decreases worry about other hazards (Weber, 1997) Single action biasTendency to engage in single corrective action (Weber, 2006)Yet, most environmental problems require multiple and sustained responses
Behavior change with rule-based decisionsMuch behavior driven by habitsbased on past calculations or internalized rules
Create new habits, by following new rulesRespected authority to issue new rule What would Jesus do?Behavior prescriptions need to be concreteWhat would Jesus drive? Capitalize on social observation and imitation by having celebrities model desired behaviorsWhat does Angelina drive?
ConclusionsHuman cognitive and emotional limitations present challenges, but also opportunities Preferences are malleable, for better or worseGoals can be primedChoice defaults and attribute labels can direct attentionMost effective mode(s) of learning and decision making can be invoked
Recommendations Introduce new mental accounts and metricsto focus attention on environmental goals and to measure progress
Provide information about energy use in experiential waysdirect or in form of simulations
Shape decision environmentUse of environmentally responsible defaultsGet people to evaluate environmentally responsible choice options firstUse group decision settings to prime social and collective goalsSocial learning and imitation to modify undesired automatic behavior
Revision of Conference AnnouncementA combination of socioeconomic, psychological, technological, and legal barriers sometime impede deployment of smart grid systems. The barriers include information gaps, insufficient consideration of consumer psychology, insufficient trust in utilities, capital constraints, poor pricing methods, and outdated laws.*
ReferencesJohnson EJ, Goldstein D. 2003. Do defaults save lives? Science 302:1338-9
Thaler RH, Sunstein CR. 2008. Nudge : improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Weber, E. U. & Johnson, E. J. (2009). Mindful judgment and decision making. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 53-86.
Weber, E. U. & Lindemann, P. G. (2007). From intuition to analysis: Making decisions with our head, our heart, or by the book. In: H. Plessner, C. Betsch & T. Betsch (Eds.), Intuition in judgment and decision making (pp. 191-208). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Weber, E. U. (1997). Perception and expectation of climate change: Precondition for economic and technological adaptation. In M. Bazerman, D. Messick, A. Tenbrunsel, & K. Wade-Benzoni (Eds.), Psychological Perspectives to Environmental and Ethical Issues in Management (pp. 314-341). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.