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Using social norms in smart meters: the norm distance effect

Journal article
Authors Magnus Bergquist
Andreas Nilsson
Published in Energy Efficiency
Volume 11
Issue 8
Pages 2101–2109
ISSN 1570-646X
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 2101–2109
Language en
Keywords The norm distance effect, Using social norms in smart meters
Subject categories Psychology


© 2018, The Author(s). Normative feedback has shown to promote energy conservation, indicating that people are motivated to adjust their energy usage to others. Yet, the effect of social norms is conditional. Adding to past research, we proposed a norm distance effect, hypothesizing that the influential power of social norms increases as others’ behavior comes closer to peoples’ own behavior. In two experiments, we provided participants with normative information on energy usage through fictive smart phone applications. Results first conceptually replicated the norm alignment effect, showing that participants adjusted their energy usage intentions more when other peoples engaged in the approved rather than the disapproved behavior. In line with our norm distance hypothesis, both experiments found that people are more likely to adjust their behavior intentions to others as others’ behaviors come closer to their own behavior. These experiments contribute to past research on normative influence through smart meters, suggesting that norm distance can refine normative feedback promoting energy conservation.

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