We are heavily influenced by others. And the more exposure people have, the more likely they will be tolerant and open minded. A recent article in Good Magazine outlines how social networks (Facebook, Twitter…) are makes consumers more responsible and less image conscience. When your online comments, photos and videos determine your reputation, you tend to adjust your behaviour towards the “right thing”.
Nate Silver, gave a great talk on why people are racist. This might not appear related, but it is. He breaks down demographics to show that racism is most prevalent in areas where the population is homogenous. When you grow up amongst different cultures, you are less likely to view them as alien or threatening. In effect, your peers change your views by simply being your peers.
A behavioural economics study (which I cannot find) recently found that providing reports to people with their energy consumption plotted against their neighbours had a dramatic impact. People would literally get into competitions to see who could cut their energy the most, social pressure worked.
Now with tools from Google, Microsoft and Twitter to broadcast and digest your energy consumption we should see a progressive move towards greater efficiency. As they say, if you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it. Or, if your friends don’t see it, you don’t care.