Episode 107: Can the knowledge that we’re being watched change how we use energy?

The Hawthorne Effect is a phenomena in psychology where the mere knowledge of being watched can affect someone’s behavior or performance. Today’s technology can track many aspects of our life. Does being watched change your behavior? Is the same true for electricity consumption? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

Listen

Respond

Learn more

Schwartz, D., Fischhoff, B., Krishnamurti, T., & So well, F. (2013). The Hawthorne effect and energy awareness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(38), 15242-15246
A History of the Hawthorne Effect from the Harvard Library Archives.

Transcript

HOST: With today’s technology, does it feel like you’re always being watched? Can the mere knowledge of being watched change how we use energy? On this week’s Energy Bite, Gabrielle Wong-Parodi, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University has some answers.

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: The Hawthorne Effect is well-known phenomena in psychology – where the mere knowledge of being watched can affect someone’s behavior or performance.

HOST: So, how does the Hawthorne effect apply to electricity use?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Researchers sent postcards on a monthly basis to 200,000 homes telling them they were part of a study on electricity use consumption. Although the cards provided no instruction or incentive to save electricity, the consumption in those households dropped 2.7%.  Their awareness heightened just because they knew they were being watched.

HOST: Why aren’t I getting a postcard to tell me I’m part of an energy study?

GABRIELLE WONG-PARODI: Although 2.7% might seem small in terms of a reduction in electricity consumption, it is greater than most states mandate. However, once the postcards stopped, so did the reduction in energy consumption.

HOST: Would being watched change your consumption of electricity? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at energybite.org.

Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s