Walking in the shoes of others: Experimental testing of dual-interest and empathy in environmental choice
This paper further tests dual interest theory and the metaeconomics approach to environmental choice, recognizing a possible role for empathy–sympathy (the basis for an internalized, shared other-interest) in tempering and conditioning the more fundamental tendency to pursue self-interest. To test, we focus on rivers flowing through agricultural areas carrying sediments, chemicals, and fertilizers which are making their way into downstream rivers and lakes. We conduct a framed laboratory experiment modeling this problem: farmers decide on the usage of conservation technology to lessen impacts on the water quality (i.e. on the commons, the capacity to absorb these wastes) in downstream areas, which is more costly than the alternative intensive technology. The results confirm our hypotheses, demonstrating that Upstream Farmers who practice conservation are tempering profit maximization with empathy-based, environmentally conscious behavior. Such behavior better serves the farmers’ own-interest, and also helps Downstream Water Users. Environmental economics models need to explicitly include empathy–sympathy and the moral–ethical context it produces, providing a more scientific basis for conservation policy and programs.
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Volume (Year): 41 (2012)
Issue (Month): 5 ()
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