Impact of social value orientation on energy conservation in different behavioral domains


  • This study was funded by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) and constitutes a part of the Energy Policy Fundamentals research program.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Bernadette Sütterlin, Institute for Environmental Decisions (IED), Consumer Behavior, ETH Zurich, Universitaetstrasse 22, CHN J 75.3, CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland. E-mail:


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between social value orientation and energy conservation over different energy consumption domains. Additionally, the impact of type of energy conservation measure (curtailment vs. energy efficiency) was investigated. Data were derived from a mail survey of Swiss households (N = 1,209). It was expected that social value orientation and type of conservation measure affect conservation behavior. Confirming our hypotheses, prosocials reported more energy conservation—in the housing, mobility, and food domain—compared with individualists and competitors. As assumed, the difference in energy conservation between the three social value orientations was found for curtailment behaviors, but not for energy efficiency behaviors requiring no change in habits. Results and implications are discussed.