It's so Hot in Here: Information Avoidance, Moral Wiggle Room, and High Air Conditioning Usage

38 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2018

See all articles by Giovanna D'Adda

Giovanna D'Adda

University of Milan - Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods (DEMM)

Yu Gao

Polytechnic University of Milan - School of Management

Russell Golman

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Massimo Tavoni

Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM); Princeton University - Princeton Environmental Institute

Date Written: March 26, 2018

Abstract

Environmental policies based on information provision are widespread, but have often proven ineffective. One possible explanation for information’s low effectiveness is that people actively avoid it. We conduct an online field experiment on air conditioning usage to test the theory of moral wiggle room, according to which people avoid information that would compel them to act morally, against the standard theory of information acquisition, and identify conditions under which each theory applies. In the experiment, we observe how exogenously imposing a feeling of moral obligation to reduce air conditioning usage and exploiting natural variation in the cost of doing so, given by outside temperature, influences subjects’ avoidance of information about their energy use impacts on the environment. Moral obligation increases information avoidance when it is hot outside, consistent with the moral wiggle room theory, but decreases it when outside temperature is low. Avoiding information positively correlates with air conditioning usage. These findings provide guidance about tailoring the use of nudges and informational tools to the decision environment.

Keywords: Information Avoidance, Energy Efficiency, Moral Wiggle Room

JEL Classification: D4, Q4

Suggested Citation

D'Adda, Giovanna and Gao, Yu and Golman, Russell and Tavoni, Massimo, It's so Hot in Here: Information Avoidance, Moral Wiggle Room, and High Air Conditioning Usage (March 26, 2018). FEEM Working Paper No. 07.2018, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3149330 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3149330

Giovanna D'Adda

University of Milan - Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods (DEMM) ( email )

Via Conservatorio, 7
Milan, 20122
Italy

Yu Gao

Polytechnic University of Milan - School of Management ( email )

Piazza L. Da Vinci 32
Milan, 20133
Italy

Russell Golman

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Massimo Tavoni (Contact Author)

Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) ( email )

Corso Magenta 63
20123 Milan
Italy

Princeton University - Princeton Environmental Institute

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

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