Virtual experiments and environmental policy
We develop the concept of virtual experiments and consider their application to environmental policy. A virtual experiment combines insights from virtual reality in computer science, naturalistic decision-making from psychology, and field experiments from economics. The environmental policy applications of interest to us are the valuation of wild fire management policies such as prescribed burn. The methodological objective of virtual experiments is to bridge the gap between the artefactual controls of laboratory experiments and the naturalistic domain of field experiments or direct field studies. This should provide tools for policy analysis that combine the inferential power of replicable experimental treatments with the natural "look and feel" of a field domain. We present data from an experiment comparing valuations elicited by virtual experiments to those elicited by instruments that have some of the characteristics of standard survey instruments, and conclude that responses in the former reflect beliefs that are closer to the truth.
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