The effects of feedback on energy conservation: a meta-analysis

Beth Karlin, Joanne Zinger, Rebecca Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Citations (Scopus)


Feedback has been studied as a strategy for promoting energy conservation for more than 30 years, with studies reporting widely varying results. Literature reviews have suggested that the effectiveness of feedback depends on both how and to whom it is provided; yet variations in both the type of feedback provided and the study methodology have made it difficult for conclusions to be drawn. The current article analyzes past theoretical and empirical research on both feedback and proenvironmental behavior to identify unresolved issues, and utilizes a meta-analysis of 42 feedback studies published between 1976 and 2010 to test a set of hypotheses about when and how feedback about energy usage is most effective. Results indicate that feedback is effective overall, r = .071, p < .001, but with significant variation in effects (r varied from −.080 to .480). Several treatment variables were found to moderate this relationship, including frequency, medium, comparison message, duration, and combination with other interventions (e.g., goal, incentive). Overall, results provide further evidence of feedback as a promising strategy to promote energy conservation and suggest areas in which future research should focus to explore how and for whom feedback is most effective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1205-1227
Number of pages23
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2015


  • energy conservation
  • feedback
  • proenvironmental behavior
  • meta-analysis


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