Nudging and pro-environmental behaviour – Nordic Council of Ministers

One caveat should be noted when using peer comparisons. It is important to con-
sider carefully how information is elicited. Several studies have found that, while above-
average energy consumers significantly decrease their energy use, below-average con-
sumers may increase their energy use.
In addition, individuals with strong environmental ideologies primarily related to
overly strong environmental regulation might respond to information dissemination
with protest behaviour thus increasing their energy use. The latter effect, termed the
“boomerang effect”, may call for targeting information only to expected above-aver-
age consumers, or coupling the information with not only normative, but also conjunc-
tive messages, e.g. in the form of unhappy “emoticons.” Receiving a happy emoticon
has been shown to remove the boomerang effect for below-average consumers.