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Do The Effects of Social Nudges Persist? Theory and Evidence from 38 Natural Field Experiments

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  • Alec Brandon
  • Paul J. Ferraro
  • John A. List
  • Robert D. Metcalfe
  • Michael K. Price
  • Florian Rundhammer

Abstract

This study examines the mechanisms underlying long-run reductions in energy consumption caused by a widely studied social nudge. Our investigation considers two channels: physical capital in the home and habit formation in the household. Using data from 38 natural field experiments, we isolate the role of physical capital by comparing treatment and control homes after the original household moves, which ends treatment. We find 35 to 55 percent of the reductions persist once treatment ends and show this is consonant with the physical capital channel. Methodologically, our findings have important implications for the design and assessment of behavioral interventions.

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  • Alec Brandon & Paul J. Ferraro & John A. List & Robert D. Metcalfe & Michael K. Price & Florian Rundhammer, 2017. "Do The Effects of Social Nudges Persist? Theory and Evidence from 38 Natural Field Experiments," NBER Working Papers 23277, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23277
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    Cited by:

    1. Gary Bolton & Eugen Dimant & Ulrich Schmidt, 2018. "When a Nudge Backfires. Using Observation with Social and Economic Incentives to Promote Pro-Social Behavior," PPE Working Papers 0017, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    2. Dimant, Eugen & van Kleef, Gerben A. & Shalvi, Shaul, 2020. "Requiem for a Nudge: Framing effects in nudging honesty," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 247-266.
    3. Francisco Costa & François Gerard, 2018. "Hysteresis and the Welfare Effect of Corrective Policies: Theory and Evidence from an Energy-Saving Program," NBER Working Papers 24608, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Nogueira Meirelles De Souza, Mateus & Myers, Erica, 2018. "Social Norms and Personalized Messaging to Promote Energy Conservation: evidence from a university residence hall," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274130, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    5. Eszter Czibor & David Jimenez‐Gomez & John A. List, 2019. "The Dozen Things Experimental Economists Should Do (More of)," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 86(2), pages 371-432, October.
    6. Daniel A. Brent & Corey Lott & Michael Taylor & Joseph Cook & Kim Rollins & Shawn Stoddard, 2017. "Are Normative Appeals Moral Taxes? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Water Conservation," Departmental Working Papers 2017-07, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    7. Czajkowski, Mikołaj & Zagórska, Katarzyna & Hanley, Nick, 2019. "Social norm nudging and preferences for household recycling," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(C).
    8. Robert Dur & Dimitry Fleming & Marten van Garderen & Max van Lent, 2019. "A Social Norm Nudge to Save More: A Field Experiment at a Retail Bank," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 19-063/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Augurzky, Boris & Bauer, Thomas K. & Reichert, Arndt R. & Schmidt, Christoph M. & Tauchmann, Harald, 2018. "Habit formation, obesity, and cash rewards," Ruhr Economic Papers 750, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    10. Matilde Giaccherini & David Herberich & David Jimenez-Gomez & John List & Giovanni Ponti & Michael Price, 2020. "Are Economics and Psychology Complements in Household Technology Diffusion? Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00713, The Field Experiments Website.
    11. Brülisauer, Marcel & Goette, Lorenz & Jiang, Zhengyi & Schmitz, Jan & Schubert, Renate, 2020. "Appliance-specific feedback and social comparisons: Evidence from a field experiment on energy conservation," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 145(C).
    12. Henry, Marisa L. & Ferraro, Paul J. & Kontoleon, Andreas, 2019. "The behavioural effect of electronic home energy reports: Evidence from a randomised field trial in the United States," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 1256-1261.
    13. Matilde Giaccherini & David H. Herberich & David Jimenez-Gomez & John A. List & Giovanni Ponti & Michael K. Price, 2019. "The Behavioralist Goes Door-To-Door: Understanding Household Technological Diffusion Using a Theory-Driven Natural Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 26173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Robert Hahn & Robert Metcalfe, 2021. "Efficiency and Equity Impacts of Energy Subsidies," Natural Field Experiments 00724, The Field Experiments Website.
    15. Myers, Erica & Souza, Mateus, 2020. "Social comparison nudges without monetary incentives: Evidence from home energy reports," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 101(C).
    16. Kurz, Verena, 2018. "Nudging to reduce meat consumption: Immediate and persistent effects of an intervention at a university restaurant," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 317-341.
    17. Andor, Mark A. & Gerster, Andreas & Peters, Jörg & Schmidt, Christoph M., 2020. "Social Norms and Energy Conservation Beyond the US," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 103(C).
    18. Tonke, Sebastian, 2020. "Imperfect Procedural Knowledge: Evidence from a Field Experiment to Encourage Water Conservation," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224536, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    19. Jesse Burkhardt & Kenneth Gillingham & Praveen K. Kopalle, 2019. "Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Information and Pricing on Residential Electricity Consumption," NBER Working Papers 25576, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Yokoo Hide-Fumi, 2020. "A Model of Inequality Aversion and Private Provision of Public Goods," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 20(2), pages 1-5, June.
    21. Holladay, Scott & LaRiviere, Jacob & Novgorodsky, David & Price, Michael, 2019. "Prices versus nudges: What matters for search versus purchase of energy investments?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 172(C), pages 151-173.
    22. Gary E. Bolton & Eugen Dimant & Ulrich Schmidt, 2020. "When a Nudge Backfires: Combining (Im)Plausible Deniability with Social and Economic Incentives to Promote Behavioral Change," CESifo Working Paper Series 8070, CESifo.
    23. Kurz, Verena, 2017. "Nudging to reduce meat consumption: Immediate and persistent effects of an intervention at a university restaurant," Working Papers in Economics 712, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • Q4 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy

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