Exploring the Impact of Climate Change Awareness on Energy Consumption: Evidence from an Immersive Virtual Reality Experiment
Tommaso Luzzati, Stefano Baraldi, Sara Ermini, Claudia Faita, Valeria Faralla, Pietro Guarnieri, Luca Lusuardi, Vincenzo Santalucia, Sara Scipioni, Matteo Sirizzotti, and Alessandro Innocenti
Rational decision theory assumes that individuals possess complete awareness of the consequences of their actions. However, this assumption may not always align with reality, especially in the context of environmental degradation, where the impacts of choices are often distant in time and space. Can improved awareness lead to pro-environmental behaviours? To explore this question, we designed and conducted an experiment in an immersive virtual reality (IVR) environment. In our study, following a training phase, participants were asked to choose between using a tumble dryer or a clothesline to dry their laundry. During the training phase, treated subjects received exaggerated feedback – specifically, a simulated sudden outbreak of a thunderstorm when they used the dryer. The experiment took place at two Italian universities, Siena and Pisa, involving a total of 270 subjects. The results substantiated our hypothesis that exposure to “exaggerated feedback” in IVR significantly enhances the likelihood of opting for the low-energy consumption option. Furthermore, our findings suggest that IVR can be effectively employed as a tool in experimental studies.