Events Calendar

Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
12:302 p.m.


CHASS Interdisciplinary Bldg South , 1109
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In the realm of energy and environmental behavior change policy, models and metrics are king.
However, these have traditionally been predicated upon the ‘rational actor’ model. While these often work surprisingly well at the macro level, more grounded research is needed to understand what people are doing at the level of individuals, families, households, and neighborhoods.

During the Obama Administration, the ideas of Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler, around ‘nudging’ and choice architecture, became popular, with the Adminstration creating the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team to use the tools of a wider variety of social and behavioral sciences to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Federal Government. Despite the rising profile of both behavioral economics, and social psychology in policy crafting, a major tool has until recently sat on the
sidelines: ethnography, the primary tool of anthropologists and many sociologists.

Ethnography is called a ‘grounded’ method, because it is based on direct observation of behaviors in naturalistic settings. Its empirical nature and large data sets make it a good candidate for mixed-methods research design, which combine qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis to refine findings and subsequently improve outcomes for evidence based policy. In this talk, we will examine several ethnographies of energy and their relationship to policy-making, and discuss how any research project can begin to incorporate this tool for more robust conclusions about human decision-making.

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School of Public Policy

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