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Quantifying Human Behavior

Veronica J. Strang and Kevin B. Lane, Environmental Change Unit, University of Oxford



This paper considers the practical and intellectual challenges of attempting to quantify and model the complexities of human behaviour, focusing on current experimental attempts to integrate cultural and behavioural factors into the DECADE model of domestic energy use in the UK.

It looks at some of the complex, intangible, and often contradictory cultural factors that inform all individual and communal decisions and actions, for example: personal and family history, beliefs and values, processes of socialization, and knowledge acquisition. It outlines some methodologies through which these can be ?eadƒ and correlated to construct detailed profiles of a variety of groups according to age, gender, and household type.

Various ways are then considered in which such profiles may be quantified and expressed as attributes in a model of domestic energy use. The potential of these attributes to expand the modelƒs ability to predict responses to different policy scenarios is examined.

A sub-model is currently being developed which will be incorporated into the main DECADE model. This will evaluate a variety of policies and impacts on domestic energy use, ranging from plans for technical legislation (for example minimum standards), to directly educational efforts (such as energy advice and household auditing). Once the behavioural profile has been quantified, it will be used within the model to calculate parameters predicting the strength of each policy, its likely duration and the time it may take to become effective, thus ensuring that behavioural factors are incorporated into the modelling process.


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