Personalized Normative Feedback and the Moderating Role of Personal Norms: A Field Experiment to Reduce Residential Water Consumption

This article examines the role of social norms messages in promoting water conservation. A field experiment is reported in which residents were provided with personalized feedback about their water consumption, coupled with normative information about similar households in their neighborhood. Normative information was provided either through a web- based interface or through postal mail, and survey data were collected from residents prior to treatment. Results showed that residents who received normative information consumed less water than a randomized control group. Additional analyses showed that web-based distribution was less effective than postal mail. Finally,moderated regression analyses showed that residents with strong personal norms about reduced water consumption were less affected by the normative messages than were residents with low personal norms. Implications are discussed for both theory and practice.