EDA Co-Founder Ina Pockrass shares how real-time feedback can drive behavior change
If you haven’t seen the Prius dashboard, it looks like something from the Jetsons: all LED lights and flashing graphics, letting the driver know when the engine is running on silent battery power and when it’s drawing on the gas engine. It also includes a lighted gauge which tells the driver, in real time, how many miles per gallon the car is getting. Step hard on the gas to pass a truck, and the MPG plummets under 10, ease up on the gas, and the gauge climbs all the way to 100 MPG, and beyond. 100 MPG!! For over achievers like us, it’s exciting to see how we can control fuel consumption to get the most out of every drop of “dino fuel” and to keep that gauge as close to 100 MPG as possible.
The funny thing is that having this one little piece of real-time feedback has actually changed our driving habits. We’ve traded in our lead-footed ways, for the easy-footed satisfaction of keeping the engine using battery power as long as possible. Instead of revving the engine at a stoplight in preparation to pass the little old lady in the Cadillac in the next lane, we gently accelerate past her, smugly smiling as we watch the MPG gauge climb toward the sky.
We are not alone in loving this real-time feedback and we are not alone in the way having this real-time feedback has changed our behavior. Scientists are studying the so-called “Prius effect” and incorporating real time feedback mechanisms into everything from consumer electronics to manufacturing facilities. The point here is that knowledge is power, and when we’re informed about the direct impact of our behavior, like knowing that having a lead-foot on the gas pedal reduces our MPG by as much as 90%, we have put the power in our own hands to change the way we act, now.
Here’s hoping we see a continued rise in on-the-spot feedback mechanisms in other areas of our lives, accelerating our efforts to steward our over-burdened planet.