Robert Cialdini is My Hero: Sustainability Social Proof - A blog by Andrea Learned

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Robert Cialdini is My Hero: Sustainability Social Proof - A blog by Andrea Learned

Andrea writes exclusively for her blog, LearnedonWomen, and appears regularly on Vermont Public Radio.
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The 3BL Media blog roll is a select list of the most influential, respected, and authoritative voices in corporate social responsibility. Compiled from the 3BL Media staff’s extensive contacts with longtime CSR commentators, these bloggers offer relevant news, opinions, and ideas about all things CSR in one convenient place. 

Monday, June 21, 2010 - 1:24pm


When people see that their neighbors have more energy efficient households, it GETS them!  My absolute hero (and someone whose work I am closely studying for my master’s thesis), Robert Cialdini, is now leveraging his “social proof” compliance technique for sustainability purposes.  A New York Times article by Saqib Rahim reports on Cialdini’s post-academic career in studying consumer behavior and energy efficiency as chief scientist for OPOWER. According to the article, he recently tested the effectiveness of four different signs/messages with regard to energy conservation with a sample population in San Diego.  I LOVE that (my paraphrase) “your neighbors are beating you” was the message winner!  It appeals to my fourth grade competitive bombardment game mentality… and that, I believe, still exists in us all.


As mentioned in Rahim’s article, the other three signs Cialdini’s team tested were, 1) saving energy for the environment’s sake, 2) doing it for the sake of future generations, and 3) the one most of us non-research types might suspect would be most effective: cash savings.  Isn’t this fascinating?  As I’ve mentioned in so many other blog posts by now, Cialdini’s “social proof” has two components: 1 – uncertainty about which behavior is appropriate (need to see others around you doing the behavior), and 2 – similarity, or the need to see that others, and preferably those very much like you, are behaving that way. 

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