Energy information sharing in social networks: The roles of objective knowledge and perceived understanding
As sustainability educators and communication professionals consider various strategies to engage audiences with regard to household energy use, one option now seemingly available is to leverage social networks by encouraging people to share information with others they know. At the same time, we currently do not know enough about the potential spread of energy-related information in this fashion. Whether, when, or how people share energy-related information with peers or family members are crucial questions, for example. Using national survey data from U.S. residents (n=816), we predicted energy information sharing as a function of objective energy knowledge (measured using a factual energy knowledge index), perceived energy understanding, and demographic variables. Our analyses underscored the importance of assessing not only factual energy knowledge but also perceived understanding, as both are equally predictive of energy information sharing frequency (beta=.11, p<.05, for objective knowledge and beta=.11, p<.01 for perceived understanding). Number of children also predicted energy information sharing, beta=.11, p<.01. We discuss the implications of these results for informal energy education efforts in the 21st century.