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Psychology of Energy Conservation: Motivating Behavior

With increased global concerns, climate change is among the major global issues affecting our planet. The energy sector currently accounts for the largest chunk of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that enhance global warming. The CO2 concentration recently recorded globally is far higher than the maximum concentration limit, and buildings alone use almost 32% of global final energy consumption. Scientists and policymakers have drawn increased attention to mitigating climate change by reducing the rate of energy consumption in all sectors, including transportation, buildings, industry, and agriculture.

According to all available evidence, behavioural change is required to enable efficient use of available energy and enhance current energy-saving practices. Studies have documented growing interest in social science regarding energy conservation psychology. Conservation behaviour has proved that behaviour is instrumental in driving action to enhance energy conservation. Enhancing user behaviour to ensure proper energy saving can cause the consumption of energy to decline by more than 10% and reduce GHG emissions with associated conservational consequences.

The consumer aspect of energy consumption is the building users, who significantly influence the amounts of energy consumed. Ensuring that consumers have the ability, willingness, and understanding of the behaviour required to conserve energy is primordial for efficient energy conservation. Previous studies have established that behaviours such as energy conservation are influenced by a set of psychological factors. The determinants vary across cultures and local conditions but are fundamentally pivotal in facilitating energy conservation theory psychology.

Psychological Factors of Energy-Saving Behaviour

Based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) theoretical energy conservation model and related previous studies, this research has identified six psychological determinants commonly associated with energy-saving behaviour in building contexts. These determinants, associated with underlying factors likely to have indirect effects on energy-saving behaviour, include:

  1. Attitude
  2. Subjective Norm
  3. Energy Knowledge
  4. Habit
  5. Motivation
  6. Perceived Behavioural Control

Attitude

Attitude refers to an individual’s subjective judgement regarding performing a certain behaviour and whether the action has positive or negative benefits. Studies have shown that a positive attitude is more likely to lead to behavioural intention, particularly within pro-environmental behavioural contexts.

Environmental concerns and environmental beliefs have been identified as internal determinants that indirectly contribute to an individual’s intention to perform energy-saving behaviour. It motivates individuals to adopt long-lasting energy-saving behaviour. Likewise, environmental beliefs, reflecting the relationship between humans and nature, encourage individuals to conserve the environment wisely.

Attitude refers to an individual’s subjective judgement of whether a specific behaviour is worth doing and has positive or negative benefits. Studies have shown that attitude is likely to lead to behavioural intention when it is positive. This is especially the case in pro-environmental behavioural contexts, as stated by one researcher.

Two internal determinants, environmental concern and environmental belief, have similarly been found to indirectly contribute to an individual’s intention to engage in energy-saving behaviours.

  • The environmental concern refers to the drive to ensure that everyone enjoys the pleasures the condition provides to motivate each resident to adopt sustainable energy-saving behaviour.
  • Similarly, environmental belief, which reflects the interconnection between humans and nature, would inspire each individual to conserve the environment wisely.

Subjective Norm

Subjective norm refers to the social pressure from a reference group that can influence an individual’s behaviour. Recent studies have emphasised the importance of subjective norms in influencing individual intentions toward pro-environmental behaviour.

Social norms, personal norms, and moral norms are indirect determinants influencing energy-saving behaviour via subjective norms.

  • Social norms represent the relevant expectations of a community.
  • Personal norms reflect an individual’s awareness of necessary actions to address issues and their ability to effect change.
  • Moral norms denote an individual’s responsibility to undertake a certain action driven by a sense of moral obligation.

Energy Knowledge

In recent times, the importance of a knowledge base relating to energy-saving has attracted attention from researchers and the media, particularly concerning global warming issues. Studies have shown that increasing people’s knowledge of energy use problems can improve energy-saving intentions. A lack of energy knowledge regarding conservation practices may reduce individual concern for energy-saving and limit the practice of energy-saving behaviour.

Public information related to energy problems is relevant for increasing people’s knowledge of energy-saving behaviour. Public information can be delivered in written or face-to-face formats, with targeted information tailored to the characteristics of the target group being more effective than general information.

Habit

Habit refers to behaviours that are repeatedly performed until they become automatic for the individual. Habit plays a vital role in influencing people toward energy-saving behaviour.

Past experiences, as an indirect determinant, influence energy-saving behaviour through habit. This positively correlates with household intentions to perform recycling behaviour, indicating its significance in predicting individual intentions toward energy-saving behaviour.

Motivation

Motivation is generally considered as an inducement to perform a certain task. It is among the major forces that instigate particular behaviours in specific situations.

The following are two categories that demonstrate motivation:

  • Extrinsic motivation is seen when one’s rationality is dominated by the notion that external remunerations cause specific activities.
  • On the other hand, intrinsic motivation springs from voluntary behaviour and performing duties due to one’s concerns.

Environmental motivation has proven to be a crucial predictor of energy-saving behaviour.

Perceived Behavioural Control

Perceived Behavioral Control (PBC) is also a determinant construct that comes from the TPB energy conservation model. It refers to the difficulty a person may encounter in trying to remain reasonable while performing a particular action. Studies have demonstrated a substantial positive correlation between PBC and energy-saving behaviour in various settings. Self-efficacy, one of the internal determinants of PBC, similarly positively influences conservation intention since it directly reflects the implementing power one possesses to enact a particular conduct.

Conclusion for Energy Conservation in Psychology

The aforementioned psychological determinants contribute to the foundational understanding and development of energy conservation behaviour. By concentrating on each of these determinants, policymakers and other stakeholders can formulate more efficient strategies and methods to encourage individuals to save energy. All these determinants of psychology from this article are essential since they will lead to more energy-saving behaviour.

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