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Can sustainable consumption be learned? A model of cultural evolution

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  • Buenstorf, Guido
  • Cordes, Christian

Abstract

This paper shows how sustainable consumption patterns can spread within a population via processes of social learning even though a strong individual learning bias may favor environmentally harmful products. We present a model depicting how the biased transmission of different behaviors via individual and social learning influences agents' consumption behavior. The underlying learning biases can be traced back to evolved cognitive dispositions. Challenging the vision of a permanent transition toward sustainability, we argue that "green" consumption patterns are not self-reinforcing and cannot be "locked in" permanently.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

Volume (Year): 67 (2008)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 646-657

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:67:y:2008:i:4:p:646-657

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

Related research

Keywords: Consumer behavior Cultural evolution Learning Sustainability Evolutionary economics;

References

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  1. C. Cordes, 2003. "Long-term Tendencies in Technological Creativity - A Preference-based Approach," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2003-02, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
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  9. Christian Cordes, 2004. "The Human Adaptation for Culture and its Behavioral Implications," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 143-163, May.
  10. Eshel, Ilan & Samuelson, Larry & Shaked, Avner, 1998. "Altruists, Egoists, and Hooligans in a Local Interaction Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 157-79, March.
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  14. Henrich, Joseph, 2004. "Cultural group selection, coevolutionary processes and large-scale cooperation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 3-35, January.
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  16. van den Bergh, Jeroen C. J. M. & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Munda, Giuseppe, 2000. "Alternative models of individual behaviour and implications for environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 43-61, January.
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  18. World Commission on Environment and Development,, 1987. "Our Common Future," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780192820808, September.
  19. Kenneth Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Lawrence Goulder & Gretchen Daily & Paul Ehrlich & Geoffrey Heal & Simon Levin & Karl-Göran Mäler & Stephen Schneider & David Starrett & Brian Walker, 2004. "Are We Consuming Too Much?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(3), pages 147-172, Summer.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. van Kempen, Luuk & Muradian, Roldan & Sandóval, César & Castañeda, Juan-Pablo, 2009. "Too poor to be green consumers? A field experiment on revealed preferences for firewood in rural Guatemala," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(7), pages 2160-2167, May.
  2. Alex Coad & Peter de Haan & Julia Sophie Woersdorfer, 2008. "Consumer support for environmental policies: An application to purchases of green cars," Jena Economic Research Papers 2008-035, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  3. Ingmar Schumacher, 2009. "The dynamics of Environmentalism and the Environment," Working Papers hal-00392379, HAL.
  4. Krause, Rachel M. & Carley, Sanya R. & Lane, Bradley W. & Graham, John D., 2013. "Perception and reality: Public knowledge of plug-in electric vehicles in 21 U.S. cities," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 433-440.
  5. repec:ipg:wpaper:5 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Kaufman, Noah, 2014. "Overcoming the barriers to the market performance of green consumer goods," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 487-507.
  7. Safarzyńska, Karolina & Frenken, Koen & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2012. "Evolutionary theorizing and modeling of sustainability transitions," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 1011-1024.
  8. Delacote, Philippe & Montagné-Huck, Claire, 2012. "Political consumerism and public policy: Good complements against market failures?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 188-193.
  9. Cordes, Christian & Schwesinger, Georg, 2014. "Technological diffusion and preference learning in the world of Homo sustinens: The challenges for politics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 191-200.
  10. Christian Schubert & Andreas Chai, 2012. "Sustainable Consumption and Consumer Sovereignty," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2012-14, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  11. repec:ipg:wpaper:201405 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Nathalie Lazaric & Kevin Maréchal, 2010. "Overcoming inertia: insights from evolutionary economics into improved energy and climate policy," Post-Print hal-00452205, HAL.
  13. Safarzyńska, Karolina, 2013. "Evolutionary-economic policies for sustainable consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 187-195.
  14. Hedlund-de Witt, Annick, 2011. "The rising culture and worldview of contemporary spirituality: A sociological study of potentials and pitfalls for sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 1057-1065, April.

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