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Thinking past, thinking future: An empirical test of the effects of retrospective assessment on future preferences


  • Noblet, Caroline L.
  • Anderson, Mark W.
  • Teisl, Mario F.


In recent work, we asserted that the largest group of stakeholders for sustainability science is future generations; yet intergenerational tradeoffs are often understudied. We proposed retrospective assessment as one potential means of clarifying what future preferences might be. Using a split-sample design we test the potential for retrospective assessment to influence citizens' preferences for future policy decision. We test the potential for retrospective assessment to yield increased or decreased support for policy. Our findings reveal context dependent public policy preferences where the presence of retrospective assessment significantly impacts citizens' preferences and outcomes appear strongly influenced by the attributes of the historical (or retrospective) scenario provided.

Suggested Citation

  • Noblet, Caroline L. & Anderson, Mark W. & Teisl, Mario F., 2015. "Thinking past, thinking future: An empirical test of the effects of retrospective assessment on future preferences," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 180-187.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:114:y:2015:i:c:p:180-187
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.04.002

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Norton, Bryan & Costanza, Robert & Bishop, Richard C., 1998. "The evolution of preferences: Why 'sovereign' preferences may not lead to sustainable policies and what to do about it," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2-3), pages 193-211, February.
    2. Robert Sugden, 2005. "Coping with Preference Anomalies in Cost–Benefit Analysis: A Market-Simulation Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(1), pages 129-160, September.
    3. Gowdy, John M. & Howarth, Richard B., 2007. "Sustainability and benefit-cost analysis: Theoretical assessments and policy options," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 637-638, September.
    4. Anderson, Mark W. & Teisl, Mario & Noblet, Caroline, 2012. "Giving voice to the future in sustainability: Retrospective assessment to learn prospective stakeholder engagement," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 1-6.
    5. Vail, David & Hultkrantz, Lars, 2000. "Property rights and sustainable nature tourism: adaptation and mal-adaptation in Dalarna (Sweden) and Maine (USA)," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 223-242, November.
    6. Gowdy, John M., 2007. "Toward an experimental foundation for benefit-cost analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 649-655, September.
    7. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132-132.
    8. Levin, Irwin P. & Schneider, Sandra L. & Gaeth, Gary J., 1998. "All Frames Are Not Created Equal: A Typology and Critical Analysis of Framing Effects," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 149-188, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carfora, Alfonso & Romano, Antonio A. & Ronghi, Monica & Scandurra, Giuseppe, 2017. "Renewable generation across Italian regions: Spillover effects and effectiveness of European Regional Fund," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 132-141.
    2. Michalis Skourtos & Dimitris Damigos & Areti Kontogianni & Christos Tourkolias & Alistair Hunt, 2019. "Embedding Preference Uncertainty for Environmental Amenities in Climate Change Economic Assessments: A “Random” Step Forward," Economies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(4), pages 1-22, October.


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