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Title: Mental models : understanding domestic energy systems and user behaviour
Author: Revell, Kirsten Magrethe Anita
ISNI:       0000 0004 5370 1708
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2015
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Energy consumption due to domestic heating is a major contributor to climate change. Kempton (1986) proposed that ‘Mental Models’ of thermostat controls could be linked to energy wasting behaviour. Mental models can be thought of as ‘pictures in the mind’ that help users understand and operate systems. This thesis explored if changes to the heating interface design could influence the mental model held, to promote appropriate behaviour with heating controls. Consideration of bias is essential when undertaking research into mental models. The ‘Tree-Rings’ framework was developed to address this, resulting in the creation of the ‘Quick Association Check’ (QuACK); a method for capturing and analysing mental models and behaviour related to heating controls. QuACk was initially applied to a case study of 6 householders. This revealed a ‘systems level’ approach was necessary to understand behaviour strategies, in contrast to Kempton’s single device focus. Differences in mental models explained differences in self-reported behaviour. Misunderstandings of how heating controls worked together and the influence of thermodynamics on boiler activation, explained variations in consumption between households. Norman’s (1983) ‘7 stages of activity’ was used to produce a design specification for a ‘control panel’ style heating interface. This focused on correcting key misunderstandings in householders’ mental models, that hindered appropriate behaviour. A home heating simulation was developed to allow the design to be compared with a typical presentation of heating controls. The new interface significantly improved the appropriateness of users’ mental models at the system and device levels. More appropriate behaviour was found with specific controls and the duration of goal achievement was significantly increased. These findings have implications for strategies to reduce domestic consumption through behaviour change, and provide insights that can be used to improve the design of home heating interfaces.
Supervisor: Stanton, Neville Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology ; T Technology (General)