Is Social Nudging Too Emotionally Taxing? A Field Experiment of Public Utilities and Electricity Consumers in Denmark

Carsten Lynge Jensen, Laura M. Andersen, Lars Gårn Hansen, Geraldine Henningsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Appeals to act pro-socially are becoming an increasingly popular way for utilities and authorities to encourage environmental-friendly behavior because of lower financial costs than if price incentives were used. However, recent research suggests that these measures might be emotionally taxing for utility consumers. In this article, we present the results from a randomized field experiment conducted on a sample of 1967 customers serviced by a Danish electricity company. Our results support the suggestion that socially motivated appeals are significantly more emotionally taxing than monetary incentives. We find that this difference disappears when the pro-social appeal is supplemented with a monetary incentive. Finally, we suggest a strategy for reducing emotional ‘costs’ of pro-social appeals without increasing financial costs or reducing the effectiveness of the appeal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101515
JournalEnergy Research & Social Science
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Randomized field experiment
  • Door-in-the face
  • Emotional cost
  • Nudging
  • Pro-social behavior
  • Electricity consumers

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