09/20/2011 05:35 pm ET | Updated Nov 20, 2011

I Remember Reading That My AC Thermostat Should Be Set to 60

ConEd is asking New Yorkers not to buy its products. That's not because they found religion; it's because they have found regulators that understand the value of conserving electricity.

So far so good. But here's how they try to get the message across:

It's hard to take the train in New York without encountering a pop quiz about energy usage.

The trouble with this sort of public advertising campaign? Presenting myths and facts often sows more confusion than it dispels. In one infamous study, social psychologist Norbert Schwarz found that it only takes three days for a third of study participants to confuse myths and facts. "Didn't I read somewhere that my dishwasher gets more efficient the more often I run it?" And 78 degrees sounds awfully high when my other options go from 60 to 80.

Keep it simple.

"Do not hold doors" may not be something every subway rider heeds, but at least it doesn't say: "Myth: Holding subway doors cannot lead to bodily harm."

Originally posted at