A program designed to reduce energy consumption persuaded some Republicans to consume more.

The search for better economic policy.
April 23 2010 10:01 AM

Nudges Gone Wrong

A program designed to reduce energy consumption persuaded some Republicans to consume more.

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Corrections, April 23, 2010: The article originally stated that Cialdini retired from his academic position at the University of Arizona in order to take a job at Opower. In fact, he is retired from Arizona State University but did not retire from that post for the purpose of taking the Opower job. (Return to the corrected sentence.) It also said that households with high energy-consumption rates were told "YOU NEED TO IMPROVE." They were actually told there was "ROOM TO IMPROVE." (Return to the corrected sentence.) Finally, the article stated that a nudge that might resonate with conservative energy costomers might stress "savings over environmentalism." In fact, the Opower program does stress that customers who reduce their energy use could lower their bills as well as help the environment. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Ray Fisman is a professor of economics at the Columbia Business School and co-author of The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office. Follow him on Twitter.