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Not irrational but habitual: The importance of "behavioural lock-in" in energy consumption

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  • Maréchal, Kevin

Abstract

A substantial body of literature has shown that our behaviour is often guided by habits. The existence of habits -- not fully conscious forms of behaviour -- is important as it contradicts rational choice theory. Their presence thus calls for the setting of new instruments as they make it unlikely that consumers be capable of exercising control over their energy consumption in reaction to given incentives. This is further increased in the evolutionary perspective where the current carbon-based Socio-Technical System constrains and shapes consumers' choices through structural forces. Habits being potentially "counterintentional," they may explain the "efficiency paradox" in energy as well as the continued increase of energy consumption despite the rising environmental awareness among the population. Policies aiming at reducing energy consumption should thus specifically address the performance context of habits. For instance, targeting new residents has proven to be more effective given that their preceding habits have been disturbed. The results of our empirical analysis confirm this idea by showing how a change of context makes people more receptive to a proposed measure. Our analysis of the role played by habits also suggests that individuals do not consider the need to change existing habits as an obstacle even though this is contradicted implicitly in the answers they provided to open questions. This "unconsciousness" is one of the most delicate features of habits and it should thus be accounted for when designing measures. Given the other characteristics of habits, the joint use of feedbacks and commitment strategies appears promising.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 69 (2010)
Issue (Month): 5 (March)
Pages: 1104-1114

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:5:p:1104-1114

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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Keywords: Habits Energy consumption Behavioural lock-in Evolutionary economics Change of behaviour;

References

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Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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  1. Brannlund, Runar & Ghalwash, Tarek & Nordstrom, Jonas, 2007. "Increased energy efficiency and the rebound effect: Effects on consumption and emissions," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
  2. Unruh, Gregory C., 2000. "Understanding carbon lock-in," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 817-830, October.
  3. Marechal, Kevin, 2007. "The economics of climate change and the change of climate in economics," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 5181-5194, October.
  4. Hodgson, Geoffrey M., 1997. "Economics and the return to Mecca: The recognition of novelty and emergence," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 399-412, October.
  5. Geels, Frank W., 2004. "From sectoral systems of innovation to socio-technical systems: Insights about dynamics and change from sociology and institutional theory," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6-7), pages 897-920, September.
  6. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Cultural group selection, coevolutionary processes and large-scale cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 3-35, January.
  7. Røpke, Inge, 2009. "Theories of practice -- New inspiration for ecological economic studies on consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 2490-2497, August.
  8. Faiers, Adam & Cook, Matt & Neame, Charles, 2007. "Towards a contemporary approach for understanding consumer behaviour in the context of domestic energy use," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 4381-4390, August.
  9. Schenk, Niels J. & Moll, Henri C. & Schoot Uiterkamp, Anton J.M., 2007. "Meso-level analysis, the missing link in energy strategies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1505-1516, March.
  10. Sanne, Christer, 2002. "Willing consumers--or locked-in? Policies for a sustainable consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 273-287, August.
  11. Lindbladh, Eva & Lyttkens, Carl Hampus, 2002. "Habit versus choice: the process of decision-making in health-related behaviour," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 451-465, August.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Lopes, M.A.R. & Antunes, C.H. & Martins, N., 2012. "Energy behaviours as promoters of energy efficiency: A 21st century review," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 4095-4104.
  2. Evens Salies, 2012. "Real-time pricing when consumers have saving costs," Sciences Po publications 2012-11, Sciences Po.
  3. Schleich, Joachim & Klobasa, Marian & Gölz, Sebastian & Brunner, Marc, 2013. "Effects of feedback on residential electricity demand—Findings from a field trial in Austria," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1097-1106.
  4. Salies, Evens, 2013. "Real-time pricing when some consumers resist in saving electricity," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 843-849.
  5. Bertha Maya Sopha, 2013. "Sustainable Paper Consumption: Exploring Behavioral Factors," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(4), pages 270-283, November.
  6. Chai, Andreas & Bradley, Graham & Lo, Alex Y. & Reser, Joseph, 2014. "What time to adapt? The role of discretionary time in sustaining the climate change value-action gap," MPRA Paper 53461, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Hélène Joachain & Frédéric Klopfert, 2011. "Emerging trend of complementary currencies systems as policy instrument for environmental purposes: changes ahead?," Working Papers CEB 11-047, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  8. Olivier Brette & Thomas Buhler & Nathalie Lazaric & Kevin Marechal, 2014. "Reconsidering the Nature and Effects of Habits in Urban Transportation Behaviour," GREDEG Working Papers 2014-10, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.
  9. Safarzyńska, Karolina & Frenken, Koen & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2012. "Evolutionary theorizing and modeling of sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1011-1024.
  10. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/c6t1fl36hv9s7q89j8m3l01c9 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Martinsson, Johan & Lundqvist, Lennart J. & Sundström, Aksel, 2011. "Energy saving in Swedish households. The (relative) importance of environmental attitudes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 5182-5191, September.
  12. Christian Schubert & Andreas Chai, 2012. "Sustainable Consumption and Consumer Sovereignty," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-14, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Evolutionary Economics Group.
  13. Litvine, Dorian & Gazull, Laurent & Dabat, Marie-Hélène, 2014. "Assessing the potential demand for biofuel by combining Economics and Psychology: A focus on proximity applied to Jatropha oil in Africa," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 85-95.

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