Energy conservation goals: What people adopt, what they recommend, and why

Shahzeen Z. Attari, David H. Krantz, Elke U. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Failures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by adopting policies, technologies, and lifestyle changes have led the world to the brink of crisis, or likely beyond. Here we use Internet surveys to attempt to understand these failures by studying factors that affect the adoption of personal energy conservation behaviors and also endorsement of energy conservation goals proposed for others. We demonstrate an asymmetry between goals for self and others (“I’ll do the easy thing, you do the hard thing”), but we show that this asymmetry is partly produced by actor/observer differences: people know what they do already (and generally do not propose those actions as personal goals) and also know their own situational constraints that are barriers to action. We also show, however, that endorsement of conservation goals decreases steeply as a function of perceived difficulty; this suggests a role for motivated cognition as a barrier to conservation: difficult things are perceived as less applicable to one’s situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-351
Number of pages10
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Applied Psychology
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Actor/observer bias
  • Energy conservation
  • Motivated reasoning


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