New work explores why "turning off the lights" remains such a sticky heuristic

Easy but not effective: Why “turning off the lights” remains a salient energy conserving behaviour in the United States

When participants are asked how best to save energy in the home, the most frequent response since the 1980s has been “turning off the lights”. Here, we use an online survey (N=1,418) to investigate why turning off the lights persists as a modal response despite decades of energy education promoting far more effective behaviors. We find that participants explain their choice of turning off lights or replacing bulbs with different heuristics. Participants who choose turning off the lights state that energy savings occur when an appliance is completely turned off. Alternatively, those who pick replacing inefficient light bulbs state that far less energy can be used for a given task.

Huge congratulations to co-authors Daniel Lundberg (SPEA Alum, now at Indiana Finance Authority) and Janine Tang (IU Law School).

New work: Ad hominem attacks or do-gooder derogation?

We find strong evidence for the negative effects of behavior-advocacy inconsistency for both neighbors and experts, albeit much larger impacts for experts. We also find highly sustainable advocates were not more influential than somewhat sustainable ones—instead they were marginally worse. Overall, these results suggest that advocates, especially experts, are most credible and influential when they adopt many sustainable behaviors in their day-to-day lives, so long as they are not seen as too extreme

On happiness and self-care


Working on climate change and behavior (both personal and political) is emotionally and intellectually challenging. Our community (and academia) rarely talks about self-care. It is so important, and I try to emphasize it for my team and myself as much as possible. Here is a picture of our lab mascot, Savannah, starting a 11-mile hike in McCormick's Creek State Park in Bloomington Indiana this past Saturday. This is what happiness looks like to me. What does it look like to you?

New paper out: Climate change communicators’ carbon footprints affect their audience’s policy support

Our new paper is out in Climatic Change, co-authored with (the amazing and wonderful) David Krantz (Columbia University) and Elke Weber (Princeton University).

We find that people are more likely to support decarbonization policies if the advocate for the policies have a low carbon footprint. We also find that the negative effects of a large carbon footprint on credibility are greatly reduced if the communicator reforms their behavior by reducing their personal carbon footprints.

You can find the paper here  and the accompanying data and supplemental files on our publication page.

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BE.Hive: Climate Change Needs Behavior Change - RARE & National Geographic

At the BE.Hive: Climate Change Needs Behavior Change summit, you will learn about the latest academic insights from behavior science, get inspired by the world’s leading environmentalists, be ignited by artists, storytellers and explorers, and identify some of the greatest opportunities for shifting human behavior to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Looking forward to presenting and learning at NatGeo! March 19, 2019, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm; National Geographic, Washington DC

Congrats to Kurt and Noemi!

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Huge congratulations to Kurt Waldman (Geography, Indiana U.) and Noemi Vergopolan (Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton U.) for our new paper - “Cognitive biases about climate variability in smallholder farming systems in Zambia” (In press at Weather, Climate and Society).

We compare farmer’s perceptions of rainfall onset with satellite-gauge-derived rainfall data and hyper-resolution soil moisture estimates. We find that farmers perceive that rains are arriving later than they are and that farmers rely on heuristics about rainy season onset to decide on when to plant maize.