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Framing Descriptive Norms as Self-Benefit Versus Environmental Benefit: Self-Construal’s Moderating Impact in Promoting Smart Energy Devices

Carla Mingolla (), Liselot Hudders () and Veroline Cauberghe ()
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Carla Mingolla: Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Korte Meer 7-9-11, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Liselot Hudders: Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Korte Meer 7-9-11, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Veroline Cauberghe: Department of Communication Sciences, Ghent University, Korte Meer 7-9-11, 9000 Gent, Belgium

Sustainability, 2020, vol. 12, issue 2, 1-23

Abstract: Recently, awareness has been raised concerning the importance of sustainable energy use. Nevertheless, many obstacles must be overcome to change individuals’ energy consumption habits. This study examines how a message should be framed to convince individuals to purchase a smart energy device that provides feedback on household energy use. As such, this device can assist households in adjusting their energy-wasting habits. Through two experimental studies, this paper examines how a descriptive normative message, indicating that the majority of US households have already purchased a smart energy device, can increase individuals’ intention to purchase the device. Both studies consider the moderating influence of the self-construal, which refers to individuals’ consideration of themselves as either part of a group (interdependent self-construal) or independent from others (independent self-construal). The first study (n = 231) reveals that a descriptive norm (versus no norm) leads to a higher purchase intention through an enhanced normative influence regardless of participants’ self-construal. The second study (n = 128) adds to the finding that combining a descriptive norm with a self-benefit (versus environmental) frame more strongly impacts the purchase intent of individuals with a dominant independence. No significant differences are identified between the two benefit frames’ effectiveness among individuals with a dominant interdependence.

Keywords: sustainable energy use; smart energy devices; social norms; descriptive norms; self-construal; self-benefit; environmental-benefit (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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