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Testing the Effect of Defaults on the Thermostat Settings of OECD Employees

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  • Zachary Brown

Abstract

Default options have been shown to affect behavior in a variety of economic choice tasks, including health care and retirement savings. Less research has tested whether defaults affect behavior in the domain of energy efficiency. This study uses data from a randomized controlled experiment in which the default settings on office thermostats in an OECD office building were manipulated during the winter heating season, and chosen thermostat setting observed over a six week period. Using difference-in-differences, panel, and censored regression models (to control for maximum allowable thermostat settings), we find that small decreases in the default led to a greater reduction in chosen settings than large decreases. We also find that office occupants who are more apt to adjust their thermostats prior to the intervention were less susceptible to the default. We find no evidence that offices with multiple occupants displayed different patterns in thermostat choices than single-occupant offices. We conclude that this kind of intervention can increase building energy efficiency, and discuss broader policy implications of our findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Zachary Brown, 2012. "Testing the Effect of Defaults on the Thermostat Settings of OECD Employees," Natural Field Experiments 00382, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00382
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    1. Löfgren, Åsa & Martinsson, Peter & Hennlock, Magnus & Sterner, Thomas, 2012. "Are experienced people affected by a pre-set default option—Results from a field experiment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 66-72.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sunstein, Cass R., 2016. "Fifty Shades of Manipulation," Journal of Marketing Behavior, now publishers, vol. 1(3-4), pages 213-244, February.
    2. Schubert, Christian, 2017. "Green nudges: Do they work? Are they ethical?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 329-342.
    3. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:622-:d:96017 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:1:p:249-:d:127560 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Datta,Saugato & Miranda Montero,Juan Jose & Zoratto,Laura De Castro & Calvo-Gonzalez,Oscar & Darlingm,Matthew & Lorenzana,Karina Josephine Orduna, 2015. "A behavioral approach to water conservation: evidence from Costa Rica," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7283, The World Bank.
    6. Schleich, Joachim & Gassmann, Xavier & Faure, Corinne & Meissner, Thomas, 2016. "Making the implicit explicit: A look inside the implicit discount rate," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 321-331.
    7. Rachel Croson & Nicolas Treich, 2014. "Behavioral Environmental Economics: Promises and Challenges," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(3), pages 335-351, July.
    8. Ramos, A. & Gago, A. & Labandeira, X. & Linares, P., 2015. "The role of information for energy efficiency in the residential sector," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(S1), pages 17-29.
    9. Takanori Ida & Naoya Motegi & Yoshiaki Ushifusa, 2016. "Behavioral Study of Personalized Automated Demand Response in Workplaces," Discussion papers e-16-010, Graduate School of Economics , Kyoto University.
    10. Cristina Cattaneo, 2018. "Internal and External Barriers to Energy Efficiency: Made-to-Measure Policy Interventions," Working Papers 2018.08, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    11. Gabriela Michalek & Georg Meran & Reimund Schwarze & Özgür Yildiz, 2015. "Nudging as a new 'soft' tool in environmental policy. An analysis based on insights from cognitive and social psychology," Discussion Paper Series RECAP15 21, RECAP15, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B5 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches
    • C1 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General
    • C9 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy

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