The considerations and limitations of feedback as a strategy for behaviour change

Design for Sustainable Behaviour (DfSB) is a maturing research area concerned with the application of design strategies to influence consumer behaviour during a products use phase towards more sustainable action. However, current DfSB research has focussed on strategy selection with little research into understanding the real-world impact of the behaviour changing interventions debated. This article presents the results of an extensive literature review of one specific DfSB strategy, feedback – a user agentive performance indicator. These findings exemplify the considerations and limitations of this particular approach to behaviour change, drawing on empirical research conducted by a breadth of authors, including two of the only medium-term case studies in the field of DfSB. Considerations discussed include the frequency, duration and accuracy of feedback; the selection of metrics and the presentation medium and mode; the use of ambience and the location of the installation. Limitations of feedback include the need for additional information and comparisons; the issue with multiple users; technical issues; relegation to background technology and the potential rebound effects. This article provides insights to both improve the effectiveness of future feedback design efforts and also to help facilitate discussion on feedbacks position as a strategy within DfSB.