In the paper “Engaging energy saving through motivation specific social comparison,” the authors Petromil Petkov, Felix Köbler, Marcus Foth, Richard C. Medland, and Helmut Krcmar explore the effectiveness of three forms of comparison on rates of energy consumption. In order to test theory, they develop the mobile application “EnergyWiz,” which provides users with normative, and one-on-one comparisons, as well as ranking in relation to other users.
The application is a simple interface with five main five main features: Live Data, History, Neighbours, Challenge and Ranking – the last three being the comparative features of interest for this research paper.
The Neighbours feature allows the user to compare his/her average performance to two groups of neighbours (efficient and inefficient), and, depending on one’s energy relative efficiency, displayed it’s approval/disapproval of your performance, by way of a phrase and a smiley or frowny face (a similar tactic is used by Opower). The Challenge was a one-on-one comparison between two friends of Facebook, whereby a recent score can be shared via a wall post. The final comparative element of EnergyWiz is the Ranking, which presents an ordered ranking of all EnergyWiz users with similar attributes, such as household size and residence type. This ranking is shared with a group of Facebook group set up for the project.
The effectiveness of EnergyWiz appears to have been primarily assessed using interviews with the 17 participants and, with this, the authors concluded that “friends are suitable comparison subjects for competition while similar others better address motivation for benchmarking.” Moreover, they suggest that “persuasive applications should at best provide benchmarking with similar friends to combine both similar past experience and relevant attributes.” This conclusion seems to arise largely from the self reporting of the participants, rather than being based on actual behavioral change, which would naturally be of some interest. Research subjects have believed one thing more motivating than another, only to find out in practice that the reverse is true.Source: Petkov, P., Köbler, F., Foth, M., Medland, R., & Krcmar, H. (2011, May). Engaging energy saving through motivation-specific social comparison. InCHI’11 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1945-1950). ACM.