Feedback learning and multiple goal pursuit in an electricity consumption task

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Room 13:026, von Kraemers Allé 1A/1E, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Guath, Mona
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Institutionen för psykologi
  • Kontaktperson: Guath, Mona
  • Disputation


The overall aim with the thesis was to investigate how learning to pursue two conflicting goals (cost and utility) in an electricity consumption task is affected by different forms of feedback, goal phrasing, and task environment. Applied research investigating the efficiency of outcome feedback on electricity consumption via in-home displays points at modest reductions (2-4%). Further, a wealth of cognitive psychological research shows that learning with outcome feedback is not unproblematic. A new experimental paradigm, the simulated household, that captures the cognitive task that confronts people when trying to regulate their electricity consumption, was developed. In three studies, different aspects of the problem of regulating one’s consumption was investigated. Study I, investigated how different feedback in terms of frequency, detail, and presence of random noise or not affect performance. It also investigated if participants pursued the goals sequentially or simultaneously and if they were able to derive a model of the task. Results showed that frequent feedback was beneficial only in a deterministic system and, surprisingly, random noise improved performance by highlighting the most costly appliances. Modelling results indicated that participants pursued goals sequentially and did not have a mental model of the task. Study II, investigated if a short feedforward training could replace or complement outcome feedback. Results indicated that the performance with one of the feedforward training schemes lead to comparable performance to outcome feedback only. The best performance was obtained when this feedforward scheme was combined with outcome feedback. Study III, investigated if the sequential goal pursuit observed in Study I was related to interpretation of the task or cognitive limitations by specifying goals for cost and/or utility. Further, it investigated the reason for the cost prioritisation. Results indicated that the sequential goal pursuit derives from cognitive constraints. Together, the results from the studies suggest that people pursue the goals sequentially and that instant outcome feedback may harm performance by distracting people from the most important and costly appliances to the appliances that allow large variability in use.