Sunday, July 15, 2012

Behavior change through information availability and financial incentives

The presence of the big data era is increasingly difficult to ignore, but what is its influence exactly? Even if big data results in some beneficial outcomes, are humans being enslaved or empowered?

One example of behavior change through the availability of big data is personal power consumption. Home electricity consumption was reduced when individuals were able to self-monitor and obtain feedback on their resource use. There were 7-10% reductions with data and feedback [1,2], and a 32% reduction with data and feedback plus incentives [3].

It is a subtle line between the coercion of social pressure and other invisible influences and the ability to make a truly self-empowered choice whilst living in society. One answer philosophers have had to this question is that at least awareness of the issue helps. Irrespective of the source of motivations, the fact that responsibility-taking through greater awareness and access to information has been demonstrated could possibly be extended to have a similarly transformative impact on health and other sectors.

[1] Wood G, Newborough M. Dynamic energy-consumption indicators for domestic appliances: environment, behaviour and design. Energy and Buildings 2003 Sep;35(8);821-41.
[2] Parker DS. Pilot Evaluation of Energy Savings from Residential Energy Demand Feedback Devices. Solar Energy 2008 Jan; 13.
[3] Petersen JE, Shunturov V, Janda K, Platt G, Weinberger K. Dormitory residents reduce electricity consumption when exposed to real-time visual feedback and incentives. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 2007;8(1);16-33.

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