Accepted paper:

Heating Swedish houses: a discussion about the nature of change, household decision-making, and the prospect of reaching a national target

Author:

Annette Henning (Dalarna University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on field research among Swedish households and companies selling pre-fabricated homes. It discusses the nature of individual decision-making and structural change, and proposes some implications for present government energy policy.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on field research among Swedish households and companies selling pre-fabricated homes. It discusses the nature of individual decision-making and structural change, and proposes some implications for present government energy policy. The Swedish Government has set up a target to reduce the amount of energy used for the heating of buildings by 20 percent to 2020. Fossil fuels should be completely abandoned, and renewable energy should increase. It is widely assumed that important ways to reach this target is to use subsidies and information to persuade households to make wiser consumption decisions. The research results show a more complex picture of decision-making as involving passive decisions, non-decisions, decision-making as a chain of thoughts and events, as dependent on emotions, and as a matter of gender, situation and context. Furthermore, the paper discusses how slow-to-change-structures (such as buildings, organisations or common experiences and modes of thought) are able to restrict or influence individual decisions and actions, but also to be modified by them. Houses, heating systems or thermal comfort devices are capable of delaying energy-efficiency processes by a great number of years. Finally, the paper illustrates culture specific experiences, habits and modes of thought which have potential for energy efficiency. It is argued that, rather than attempting to influence individuals through strategies based on assumed generic human characteristics, the shift of focus provided by anthropological methods would make it possible to support and encourage certain habits that are already in existence.

panel W003
Towards an anthropology of decision making