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A Learning Design for Reducing Hypothetical Bias in the Contingent Valuation Method


  • David Bjornstad
  • Ronald Cummings
  • Laura Osborne



Over the last few years a great deal of research has focussed on hypothetical bias in value estimates obtained with the contingent valuation (CV) method and on means for ameliorating if not eliminating such bias. To date, efforts to eliminate hypothetical bias have relied on calibration techniques or on word-smithing of one kind or another to induce subjects to provide responses to hypothetical questions that mimic responses made by subjects facing actual payments in the valuation experiment. This paper introduces a different approach for eliminating hypothetical bias. A design for a CV survey format is presented which provides subjects with the opportunity to “learn” how the CV institution works. Sequential referenda are conducted where respondents gain experience in CV settings by participating in both hypothetical and real referenda. The logic of this Learning Design is a straightforward application of the trials process used in experimental economics. We demonstrate that the Learning Design is effective in eliminating hypothetical bias in surveys concerning donations to two different public goods. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Suggested Citation

  • David Bjornstad & Ronald Cummings & Laura Osborne, 1997. "A Learning Design for Reducing Hypothetical Bias in the Contingent Valuation Method," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(3), pages 207-221, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:10:y:1997:i:3:p:207-221
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1026423201797

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Laura O. Taylor & Ronald G. Cummings, 1999. "Unbiased Value Estimates for Environmental Goods: A Cheap Talk Design for the Contingent Valuation Method," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 649-665, June.
    2. John A. Fox & Jason F. Shogren & Dermot J. Hayes & James B. Kliebenstein, 1998. "CVM-X: Calibrating Contingent Values with Experimental Auction Markets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(3), pages 455-465.
    3. Cummings, Ronald G, et al, 1997. "Are Hypothetical Referenda Incentive Compatible?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 609-621, June.
    4. Neill Helen R., 1995. "The Context for Substitutes in CVM Studies: Some Empirical Observations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 393-397, November.
    5. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    6. Brookshire, David S & Coursey, Don L, 1987. "Measuring the Value of a Public Good: An Empirical Comparison of Elicitation Procedures," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 554-566, September.
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