A few summers back, researchers went door to door in a Southern California neighborhood to see what it would take to get folks to turn off their air conditioning and prevent power blackouts. They tried appealing to greed (“You’ll save money”) and guilt (“It’s better for the Earth”). Neither message made a dent. But when residents were told that most of their neighbors were cutting back on the AC, energy use finally plummeted. Nobody, it seems, wants to be the biggest energy hog on the block.

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