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How Technological Efficiency Improvements Change Consumer Preferences: Towards a Psychological Theory of Rebound Effects

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  • Santarius, Tilman
  • Soland, Martin

Abstract

The use of technologies can influence consumer preferences and demand and hence, impact on environmental sustainability. This article contributes to research on ‘rebound effects’, which focus on how energy efficiency improvements (EEI) increase energy service demand. Most of 35years of rebound research has been analyzed from micro- and macro-economic perspectives. Yet, micro-economic rebound research has so far investigated human behavior only on grounds of simple rational choice models and static assumptions about consumer preferences. This article exposes the existing rebound discourse to psychological theories. Building on considerations of how EEI can interfere with processes of decision-making, it develops a model of how EEI – via psychological processes – may lead to ‘motivational rebound effects’ as well as to ‘beneficial effects’, which countervail rebounds. The article then advances a typology of such rebound and beneficial effects that not only integrates the typology currently used in the micro-economic rebound literature, but goes beyond it. Model and typology explain how economic rebound research could benefit from psychological theory, provide the basis for empirically investigating rebound effects on more solid theoretical grounds, and empower a comprehensive discussion about policies and measures that aim at a sustainable use of technologies.

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  • Santarius, Tilman & Soland, Martin, 2018. "How Technological Efficiency Improvements Change Consumer Preferences: Towards a Psychological Theory of Rebound Effects," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 414-424.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:414-424
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2017.12.009
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    5. Vélez-Henao, Johan-Andrés & Font Vivanco, David & Hernández-Riveros, Jesús-Antonio, 2019. "Technological change and the rebound effect in the STIRPAT model: A critical view," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 1372-1381.
    6. Edouard Civel & Nathaly Cruz-Garcia, 2018. "Green, yellow or red lemons? Framed field experiment on houses energy labels perception," EconomiX Working Papers 2018-35, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    7. Eberling, Elisabeth & Dütschke, Elisabeth & Eckartz, Katharina Marie & Schuler, Johannes, 2019. "Moral licensing and rebound effects in the residential lighting area: An experimental study," Working Papers "Sustainability and Innovation" S09/2019, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).
    8. Witt, Ulrich, 2021. "Does sustainability-promoting policy making reduce our welfare?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 188(C).
    9. Sonnberger, Marco & Gross, Matthias, 2018. "Rebound Effects in Practice: An Invitation to Consider Rebound From a Practice Theory Perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 14-21.
    10. Shao, Shuai & Guo, Longfei & Yu, Mingliang & Yang, Lili & Guan, Dabo, 2019. "Does the rebound effect matter in energy import-dependent mega-cities? Evidence from Shanghai (China)," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 241(C), pages 212-228.
    11. David Font Vivanco & Serenella Sala & Will McDowall, 2018. "Roadmap to Rebound: How to Address Rebound Effects from Resource Efficiency Policy," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(6), pages 1-17, June.
    12. Edouard Civel & Nathaly Cruz, 2018. "Green, yellow or red lemons? Artefactual field experiment on houses energy labels perception," Working Papers 1809, Chaire Economie du climat.
    13. Cansino, José M. & Román-Collado, Rocío & Merchán, José, 2019. "Do Spanish energy efficiency actions trigger JEVON’S paradox?," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 181(C), pages 760-770.
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