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How Long Do Treatment Effects Last? Persistence and Durability of a Descriptive Norms Intervention's Effect on Energy Conservation

  • Allcott, Hunt
  • Rogers, Todd T
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    Behavioral decision research has profoundly changed our understanding of decision-making. Recent research has begun to explore how behavioral insights can influence behavior in the world, at scale. This work often involves field experiments studying outcomes over short time windows. We study a descriptive social norms intervention's impact on household energy usage continuously over 39 to 49 months. Our two field experiments (N=155,000 households) each have three conditions: untreated control, continued treatment, and treatment that is subsequently discontinued. We find that continued treatment reduces energy usage over the entire period (“durabilityâ€). Further, after treatment is discontinued, a sizable energy use reduction persists (“persistenceâ€). Finally, continued treatment generates a greater impact over time than discontinued treatment, showing that continued treatment exerts incremental influence on behavior over and above persistence. We discuss implications, describe how long-term persistence can occur, and argue that future behavioral decision research should address long-term effects of interventions.

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    File URL: http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/9804492/RWP12-045_Rogers.pdf
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    Paper provided by Harvard Kennedy School of Government in its series Scholarly Articles with number 9804492.

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    Date of creation: 2012
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    Publication status: Published in HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series
    Handle: RePEc:hrv:hksfac:9804492
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    Web page: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/

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    1. Alan Gerber & Donald Green & Ron Shachar, 2003. "Voting may be habit forming: Evidence from a randomized field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00251, The Field Experiments Website.
    2. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275, February.
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    4. Noah J. Goldstein & Robert B. Cialdini & Vladas Griskevicius, 2008. "A Room with a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms to Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 472-482, 03.
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    8. Bruno S. Frey & Stephan Meier, 2004. "Social Comparisons and Pro-social Behavior: Testing "Conditional Cooperation" in a Field Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1717-1722, December.
    9. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
    10. Hunt Allcott & Todd Rogers, 2012. "The Short-Run and Long-Run Effects of Behavioral Interventions: Experimental Evidence from Energy Conservation," NBER Working Papers 18492, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2003. "Are emily and greg more employable than lakisha and jamal? A field experiment on labor market discrimination," Natural Field Experiments 00216, The Field Experiments Website.
    12. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
    13. Paul J. Ferraro & Juan Jose Miranda & Michael K. Price, 2011. "The Persistence of Treatment Effects with Norm-Based Policy Instruments: Evidence from a Randomized Environmental Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 318-22, May.
    14. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
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