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When Nudges Fail to Scale: Field Experimental Evidence from Goal Setting on Mobile Phones

Author

Listed:
  • Andreas Löschel
  • Matthias Rodemeier
  • Madeline Werthschulte

Abstract

Non-pecuniary incentives motivated by insights from psychology (“nudges”) have been shown to be effective tools to change behavior in a variety of fields. An often unanswered question relevant for public policy is whether these promising interventions can be scaled up. In cooperation with a large public utility in Germany, we develop an energy savings application for mobile phones that can be used by the majority of the population. The app randomizes a goal-setting nudge prompting users to set themselves energy consumption targets. The roll-out of the app is promoted by a mass-marketing campaign and large financial incentives. Results document low demand for the energy app in the general population and a tightly estimated null effect of the nudge on electricity consumption among app users. A likely mechanism of the null effect is unfavorable self-selection into the app: users are characterized by an already low baseline energy consumption and exhibit none of the behavioral biases that typically explain why goal setting affects behavior. We also find that the nudge significantly decreases the likelihood to use the app over time. Structural estimates imply that the average user is willing to pay 7.41 EUR to avoid the nudge and the intervention would yield substantial welfare losses if implemented nationwide.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Löschel & Matthias Rodemeier & Madeline Werthschulte, 2020. "When Nudges Fail to Scale: Field Experimental Evidence from Goal Setting on Mobile Phones," CESifo Working Paper Series 8485, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8485
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhi Li & Po-Hsuan Lin & Si-Yuan Kong & Dongwu Wang & John Duffy, 2021. "Conducting large, repeated, multi-game economic experiments using mobile platforms," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 16(4), pages 1-18, April.
    2. Rodemeier, Matthias, 2021. "Buy baits and consumer sophistication: Theory and field evidence from large-scale rebate promotions," CAWM Discussion Papers 124, University of Münster, Münster Center for Economic Policy (MEP).
    3. Rita Abdel Sater, 2021. "Essays on the application of behavioural insights to environmental policy [Essais sur l’application des connaissances comportementales aux politiques environnementales]," SciencePo Working papers tel-03450909, HAL.
    4. Holzmeister, Felix & Huber, Jürgen & Kirchler, Michael & Schwaiger, Rene, 2022. "Nudging debtors to pay their debt: Two randomized controlled trials," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 198(C), pages 535-551.
    5. Becker, Jörg & Distel, Bettina & Grundmann, Matthias & Hupperich, Thomas & Kersting, Norbert & Löschel, Andreas & Parreira do Amaral, Marcelo & Scholta, Hendrik, 2021. "Challenges and potentials of digitalisation for small and mid-sized towns: Proposition of a transdisciplinary research agenda," ERCIS Working Papers 36, University of Münster, European Research Center for Information Systems (ERCIS).
    6. Rita Abdel Sater, 2021. "Essays on the application of behavioural insights to environmental policy [Essais sur l’application des connaissances comportementales aux politiques environnementales]," SciencePo Working papers Main tel-03450909, HAL.
    7. Werthschulte, Madeline, 2023. "Present focus and billing systems: Testing ‘pay-as-you-go’ vs. ‘pay-later’," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 212(C), pages 108-121.
    8. Werthschulte, Madeline & Löschel, Andreas, 2021. "On the role of present bias and biased price beliefs in household energy consumption," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 109(C).
    9. Fanghella, Valeria & Ploner, Matteo & Tavoni, Massimo, 2021. "Energy saving in a simulated environment: An online experiment of the interplay between nudges and financial incentives," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 93(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    nudging; goal setting; scalability; field experiments; energy; behavioural welfare economics; mobile phones;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • Q49 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Other

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