Social nudges can also be used to decrease energy use. To see how, consider a study of the power of social norms, involving nearly three hundred households in San Marcos, California.20 All of the households were informed about how much energy they had used in previous weeks; they were also given (accurate) information about the average consumption of energy by households in their neighborhood. The effects on behavior were both clear and striking. In the following weeks, the above-average energy users significantly decreased their energy use; the below-average energy users significantly increased their energy use. The latter finding is called a boomerang effect, and it offers an important warning. If you want to nudge people into socially desirable behavior, do not, by any means, let them know that their current actions are better than the social norm.
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