IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Measuring Hypothetical Bias in Choice Experiments: The Importance of Cognitive Consistency


  • Johansson-Stenman Olof

    () (University of Gothenburg)

  • Svedsäter Henrik

    () (London Business School)


A choice experiment eliciting environmental values with both real and hypothetical trade-offs is set up in order to test for hypothetical bias. A larger hypothetical bias was found in a between-subject than in a within-subject design, using otherwise identical scenarios, which can explain previous diverging results in the literature. We argue that people strive for consistency between their attitudes and behaviors, leading them to act in ways that correspond with their prior hypothetical statements. People hence seem to prefer to do what they say they would do, although this may not always reflect their true preferences regarding the good being valued.

Suggested Citation

  • Johansson-Stenman Olof & Svedsäter Henrik, 2008. "Measuring Hypothetical Bias in Choice Experiments: The Importance of Cognitive Consistency," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-10, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:8:y:2008:i:1:n:41

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: For access to full text, subscription to the journal or payment for the individual article is required.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jean Tirole & Roland Bénabou, 2006. "Incentives and Prosocial Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1652-1678, December.
    2. Carlsson, Fredrik & Martinsson, Peter, 2001. "Do Hypothetical and Actual Marginal Willingness to Pay Differ in Choice Experiments?: Application to the Valuation of the Environment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 179-192, March.
    3. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
    4. Eckel, Catherine C & Grossman, Philip J, 1998. "Are Women Less Selfish Than Men? Evidence from Dictator Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(448), pages 726-735, May.
    5. John List & Craig Gallet, 2001. "What Experimental Protocol Influence Disparities Between Actual and Hypothetical Stated Values?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 20(3), pages 241-254, November.
    6. Luís Santos-Pinto & Joel Sobel, 2005. "A Model of Positive Self-Image in Subjective Assessments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1386-1402, December.
    7. Cameron, Trudy Ann & Poe, Gregory L. & Ethier, Robert G. & Schulze, William D., 2002. "Alternative Non-market Value-Elicitation Methods: Are the Underlying Preferences the Same?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 391-425, November.
    8. James Murphy & P. Allen & Thomas Stevens & Darryl Weatherhead, 2005. "A Meta-analysis of Hypothetical Bias in Stated Preference Valuation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 30(3), pages 313-325, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Frode Alfnes & Chengyan Yue & Helen H. Jensen, 2010. "Cognitive dissonance as a means of reducing hypothetical bias," European Review of Agricultural Economics, Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics, vol. 37(2), pages 147-163, June.
    2. repec:kap:itaxpf:v:24:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s10797-017-9474-z is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Bachke, Maren Elise & Alfnes, Frode & Wik, Mette, 2017. "Information and donations to development aid projects," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 23-28.
    4. Azucena Gracia, 2014. "Consumers’ preferences for a local food product: a real choice experiment," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 111-128, August.
    5. Carlsson, Fredrik & Kataria, Mitesh & Krupnick, Alan & Lampi, Elina & Löfgren, Åsa & Qin, Ping & Sterner, Thomas, 2013. "A fair share: Burden-sharing preferences in the United States and China," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 1-17.
    6. Fredrik Carlsson & Jorge García & Åsa Löfgren, 2010. "Conformity and the Demand for Environmental Goods," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 47(3), pages 407-421, November.
    7. Araña, Jorge E. & León, Carmelo J., 2013. "Dynamic hypothetical bias in discrete choice experiments: Evidence from measuring the impact of corporate social responsibility on consumers demand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 53-61.
    8. Leonardo Becchetti & Vittorio Pelligra & Tommaso Reggiani, 2017. "Information, belief elicitation and threshold effects in the 5X1000 tax scheme: a framed field experiment," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 24(6), pages 1026-1049, December.
    9. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Svedsäter, Henrik, 2012. "Self-image and valuation of moral goods: Stated versus actual willingness to pay," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 879-891.
    10. Jussila Hammes , Johanna, 2017. "The impact of career concerns and cognitive dissonance on bureaucrats’ use of cost-benefit analysis," Working papers in Transport Economics 2017:5, CTS - Centre for Transport Studies Stockholm (KTH and VTI).
    11. Fredrik Carlsson, 2010. "Design of Stated Preference Surveys: Is There More to Learn from Behavioral Economics?," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(2), pages 167-177, June.
    12. Carroll, James & Aravena, Claudia & Denny, Eleanor, 2016. "Low energy efficiency in rental properties: Asymmetric information or low willingness-to-pay?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 617-629.
    13. Jinkwon Lee & Uk Hwang, 2016. "Hypothetical Bias in Risk Preferences as a Driver of Hypothetical Bias in Willingness to Pay: Experimental Evidence," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 65(4), pages 789-811, December.
    14. Craig E. Landry & Paul Hindsley & Okmyung Bin & Jamie B. Kruse & John C. Whitehead & Ken Wilson, 2011. "Weathering the Storm: Measuring Household Willingness-to-Pay for Risk-Reduction in Post-Katrina New Orleans," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 991-1013, April.
    15. Goytom Abraha Kahsay & Workineh Asmare Kassie & Abebe Damte Beyene & Lars Gårn Hansen, 2017. "Do public works programs crowd-out pro-environmental behavior? Empirical evidence from food-for-work programs in Ethiopia," IFRO Working Paper 2017/13, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    16. Luchini, S. & Watson, V., 2014. "Are choice experiments reliable? Evidence from the lab," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(1), pages 9-13.
    17. Scharf, Kimberley & Smith, Sarah L., 2010. "Rational Inattention to Subsidies for Charitable Contributions," CEPR Discussion Papers 7760, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    18. Shi, Lijia & House, Lisa & Gao, Zhifeng, 2011. "Consumer WTP for Blueberry Attributes: A Hierarchical Bayesian Approach in the WTP Space," 2011 Annual Meeting, July 24-26, 2011, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 103524, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    19. Krawczyk, Michał, 2012. "Testing for hypothetical bias in willingness to support a reforestation program," Journal of Forest Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 282-289.
    20. Mørkbak, Morten Raun & Olsen, Søren Bøye & Campbell, Danny, 2014. "Behavioral implications of providing real incentives in stated choice experiments," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 102-116.
    21. Mohammed H. Alemu & Søren B. Olsen, 2017. "Can a Repeated Opt-Out Reminder remove hypothetical bias in discrete choice experiments? An application to consumer valuation of novel food products," IFRO Working Paper 2017/05, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    22. Xie, Jing & Gao, Zhifeng & House, Lisa, 2013. "The Puzzle of Valuation Gaps Between Experimental Auction and Real Choice Experiments: Do Purchase Intention and Price Bargaining Preference Matter?," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 151282, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    23. Jacob Ladenburg & Jens Olav Dahlgaard & Ole Bonnichsen, 2010. "Testing the Effect of a Short Cheap Talk Script in Choice Experiments," IFRO Working Paper 2010/11, University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics.
    24. Moser, Riccarda & Raffaelli, Roberta & Notaro, Sandra, 2010. "The Role Of Production Methods In Fruit Purchasing Behaviour: Hypothetical Vs Actual Consumers’ Preferences And Stated Minimum Requirements," 115th Joint EAAE/AAEA Seminar, September 15-17, 2010, Freising-Weihenstephan, Germany 116426, European Association of Agricultural Economists;Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:8:y:2008:i:1:n:41. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Peter Golla). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.