Reversing impatience: Framing mechanisms to increase the purchase of energy-saving appliances

Mariateresa Silvi, Emilio Padilla

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Most environmental decisions involve intertemporal trade-offs, in that they require foregoing immediate gratification for the sake of future environmental quality. One such example is investing in energy efficiency, which entails an initial upfront cost in exchange for a future stream of energy and economic savings. Our experiment explores the role of individual temporal preferences in the decision to invest in energy conservation. We report results from a study on a nationally-representative sample of 2010 United States adults. Participants chose between appliances that differed solely in price and operating costs. We manipulated the salience of energy costs and primed participants with future-oriented messages. Our treatments increased energy-efficient choices by 24 percentage points compared with the status-quo scenario. Present-oriented individuals are less likely to purchase energy-efficient appliances but loss-framed messages that highlight the opportunity cost of inefficient appliances diminish the effect of impatience on refrigerators choice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnergy Economics
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2021


  • Energy-efficiency
  • Intertemporal choice
  • Nudge
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Survey experiment
  • Temporal preferences


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