Using Social Cognition and Persuasion to Promote Energy Conservation: A Quasi‐Experiment

Marti Hope Gonzales, Elliot Aronson, Mark A. Costanzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


A quasi‐experiment was conducted to determine if the effectiveness of the R.C.S. Home Energy Audit Program could be improved by training auditors to use social‐psychological principles during the audit procedure. Nine experienced home energy auditors attended two 1‐day workshops in which they were trained to: (a) communicate vividly; (b) personalize their recommendations to homeowners; (c) induce commitment; and (d) frame their recommendations in terms of “loss” rather than “gain”. The effectiveness of the trained auditors was compared with a control group of experienced auditors who did not receive specific training. Both telephone interview data and utility company records pointed to the success of the auditor training. In interviews, customers served by the trained auditors reported a greater likelihood of acting on the auditors' recommendations, and a large number of these customers reported applying for utility programs to finance retrofits. Utility records validated these customer claims: A significantly larger number of customers served by trained auditors actually did apply for retrofit finance programs. A longitudinal measure of actual energy consumption showed no difference between experimental and control households. Taken as a whole, these findings demonstrate the potential for using principles uncovered in the social psychological laboratory to design applied interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1066
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 1988


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