This week, The Wall Street Journal published The Secret to Turning Consumers Green with this revealing conclusion:
It isn't financial incentives. It isn't more information. It's guilt.
Traditional conservation campaigns have been "based on the premise that if we simply provide people with information, they will make changes in their lives," Mr. McKenzie-Mohr says. "We know pretty conclusively that's not true."
The most powerful aspect of social mobilization, researchers say, is that it tends to work on a subconscious level. Americans routinely tell pollsters that they would conserve energy to save the environment or to save money. Ask them if they'd conserve because their neighbors are doing it, and they scoff.
They have it backward. "We can move people to environmentally friendly behavior," says Mr. Cialdini, the psychologist, "by simply telling them what those around them are doing."