Sustainable Energy Seminar Series: Energy Sustainability Requires Behavior Change: Insights from Behavioral Sciences


Date: Monday, April 30
Time: 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Speaker: Markus Brauer, UW-Madison Professor of Psychology
Location: 1115 Wisconsin Energy Institute, 1552 University Ave

In a free public seminar at 3:30 PM on April 30, in room 1115 of the Wisconsin Energy Institute, UW–Madison Professor of Psychology Markus Brauer will give a talk on how energy sustainability requires behavior change.

I will claim that technological progress alone will be insufficient to adapt to climate change. In order bring energy consumption down to a level that is sustainable, humans have to change their behaviors. For example, most programmable thermostats in people's homes are currently not programmed, and most furnace fans are switched to "on" rather than "automatic." I will briefly talk about out-dated - yet still widely used - approaches to behavior change, before I present recent insights from the behavioral sciences: What are effective ways to get people to change their habits? How do we get them to use all these devices developed by engineers? As an example, I will talk in detail about Cool Choices, a game-based sustainability intervention that is played in teams (usually in a company). The goal of the intervention is to induce enduring behavior change and to help people reduce their carbon footprint. We evaluated the effectiveness of the intervention and showed that playing the Cool Choices Game led to a reduction in energy consumption that persisted for 12 months. I will end with the suggestion that a basic understanding of behavioral sciences helps engineers develop technology that will allow us to achieve energy sustainability.

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