Theories About Feedback

Feedback refers to the process of gaining information about for example, the status of a system, the quality of a product, someone's performance or behavior, which allows an assessment, evaluation and reaction with possible changes. As early as in the 1950s and 1960s, research about feedback showed increases in learning new tasks [ 27][ as well as positive effects of feedback on motivation to perform tasks [28] and performance achievement [27].

With regard to sustainable behavior or energy use, feedback interventions provide information about resource use or abuse with the inherent chance to become aware of the problem as well as the encouragement to act as desired. Literature shows convincing confirmation for the effectiveness of feedback measures to promote environmental sustainable behavior. Studies, which compared daily energy consumption of households with and without feedback, found energy savings up to 20% (e.g., [29-31]).

In most cases, technical devices such as displays are used for feedback because they provide the relevant information (e.g., energy consumption in kilowatt or € per hour) directly and on time. This creates the chance to almost automatically modify behavior and change energy use patterns. However, interpersonal communication with oral praise or critical reactions of superiors, coworkers, customers or friends is equally suited as feedback to change behavior.

Nevertheless, the efficiency of feedback depends much on the motives and goals of the feedback receiver (e.g., [32]). Even qualitatively high feedback does not automatically lead to behavior change unless a need or goal exists, with a personal desire to act accordingly. Feedback that energy is wasted is only helpful in the process of conservation, if there is a committed goal to do so. Goals without any feedback about the progress and achievement are at the same time neither very efficient (e.g., [24]). If employees are unaware of their work performance or effort concerning energy conservation, it becomes complicated or even impossible for them to initiate corrections or change strategies to accomplishing the set goals. Therefore a systematic combination of goals and feedback is desirable [33-35].

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