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Enabling Eco-Friendly Choices by Relying on the Proportional-Thinking Heuristic

  • Varun Dutt


    (School of Computing and Electrical Engineering, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi, 175001, India)

  • Cleotilde Gonzalez


    (Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15289, USA)

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    Ecological (eco) taxes are promising mechanisms to enable eco-friendly decisions, but few people prefer them. In this study, we present a way in which eco-tax options may be communicated to general public to encourage their payment. Our implementation (called “information presentation”) takes advantage of the non-linear relationship between eco-tax payments and CO 2 emissions and the human reliance on the proportional-thinking heuristic. According to the proportional-thinking heuristic, people are likely to prefer a small eco-tax increase and judge larger eco-tax increases to cause proportionally greater CO 2 emissions reductions. In an online study, participants were asked to choose between eco-tax increases in two problems: In one, a smaller eco-tax increase resulted in greater CO 2 emissions reduction, while in the other, a smaller tax increase resulted in lesser CO 2 emissions reduction. Although the larger eco-tax increase did not reduce CO 2 emissions the most, across both problems, people judged larger eco-tax increases to cause proportionally greater reductions in CO 2 emissions and preferred smaller tax increases. Thus, eco-tax policies would benefit by presenting information in terms of eco-tax increases, such that smaller eco-tax increases (which are more attractive and are likely to be chosen by people) cause greater CO 2 emissions reductions.

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    Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

    Volume (Year): 5 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 357-371

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    Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:5:y:2013:i:1:p:357-371:d:23032
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    1. Varun Dutt & Cleotilde Gonzalez, 2012. "Human control of climate change," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 111(3), pages 497-518, April.
    2. Johnson, Eric J. & Payne, John W. & Bettman, James R., 1988. "Information displays and preference reversals," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-21, August.
    3. Payne, John W & Bettman, James R & Schkade, David A, 1999. "Measuring Constructed Preferences: Towards a Building Code," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 243-70, December.
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