Not irrational but habitual: The importance of "behavioural lock-in" in energy consumption
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.
References listed on IDEAS
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.:
- Nathalie Lazaric, 2007. "Are Routines Reducible or Mere Cognitive Automatisms? Some contributions from cognitive science to help shed light on change in routines," DRUID Working Papers 07-13, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
- Brannlund, Runar & Ghalwash, Tarek & Nordstrom, Jonas, 2007.
"Increased energy efficiency and the rebound effect: Effects on consumption and emissions,"
Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-17, January.
- Brännlund, Runar & Ghalwash, Tarek & Nordström, Jonas, 2004. "Increased Energy Efficiency and the Rebound Effect: Effects on consumption and emissions," Umeå Economic Studies 642, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
- 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.
- Sanne, Christer, 2002. "Willing consumers--or locked-in? Policies for a sustainable consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 273-287, August.
- 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.
- Unruh, Gregory C., 2000. "Understanding carbon lock-in," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 817-830, October.
- 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.
- Røpke, Inge, 2009. "Theories of practice -- New inspiration for ecological economic studies on consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 2490-2497, August.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2010:i:5:p:1104-1114. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.