Want to fix the world? Start by making clean energy a default setting

Chris Mooney in the Washington Post: “In recent years, psychologists and behavioral scientists have begun to decipher why we make the choices that we do when it comes to using energy. And the bottom line is that it’s hard to characterize those choices as fully “rational.”

Rather than acting like perfect homo economicuses, they’ve found, we’rehighly swayed by the energy use of our neighbors and friends — peer pressure, basically. At the same time, we’re also heavily biased by the status quo — we delay in switching to new energy choices, even when they make a great deal of economic sense.

 All of which has led to the popular idea of “nudging,” or the idea that you can subtly sway people to change their behavior by changing, say, the environment in which they make choices, or the kinds of information they receive. Not in a coercive way, but rather, through gentle tweaks and prompts. And now, a major study in Nature Climate Change demonstrates that one very popular form of energy-use nudging that might be called “default switching,” or the “default effect,” does indeed work — and indeed, could possibly work at a very large scale.

“This is the first demonstration of a large-scale nudging effect using defaults in the domain of energy choices,” says Sebastian Lotz of Stanford University and the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, who conducted the research with Felix Ebeling of the University of Cologne in Germany….(More)”