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Action Bias and Environmental Decisions


  • Patt, Anthony
  • Zeckhauser, Richard


Individuals have a penchant for action, often for good reasons. But action bias arises if that penchant is carried over to areas where those reasons do not apply, hence is nonrational. Action bias is explored theoretically, and then empirically, using data from surveys of hypothetical environmental decisions. Quite apart from agency considerations, individuals like to affect outcomes when gains are reaped. Given the ability to help one of two sites, we find that decision makers choose to foster improvement rather than prevent deterioration, despite framing that makes it arbitrary which site is improved, which preserved. Strong action bias--individuals choosing to reap gains even though they must impose losses--is also observed. These concepts are related to loss aversion, status quo bias, omission bias for losses, and bright-line behavior. Copyright 2000 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • Patt, Anthony & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2000. "Action Bias and Environmental Decisions," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 45-72, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:21:y:2000:i:1:p:45-72

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    Cited by:

    1. Hammitt, James K. & Herrera-Araujo, Daniel, 2018. "Peeling back the onion: Using latent class analysis to uncover heterogeneous responses to stated preference surveys," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 165-189.
    2. Bar-Eli, Michael & Azar, Ofer H. & Ritov, Ilana & Keidar-Levin, Yael & Schein, Galit, 2007. "Action bias among elite soccer goalkeepers: The case of penalty kicks," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 606-621, October.
    3. Ahmad Barirani & Randolph Sloof & Mirjam van Praag, 2017. "The Origins and Extent of Entrepreneurial Action-Orientedness: An Experimental Study," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 17-006/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. Kandul, Serhiy & Kirchkamp, Oliver, 2018. "Do I care if others lie? Current and future effects when lies can be delegated," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 70-78.
    5. Lamiraud, Karine & Vranceanu, Radu, 2018. "Group gender composition and economic decision-making: Evidence from the Kallystée business game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 294-305.
    6. Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Schröder, Marina, 2017. "Acts of helping and harming," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 77-79.
    7. Krieger, Tim & Meierrieks, Daniel, 2019. "The economic consequences of terrorism for the European Union," Discussion Paper Series 2019-02, University of Freiburg, Wilfried Guth Endowed Chair for Constitutional Political Economy and Competition Policy.
    8. Cooper, David J. & Sutter, Matthias, 2011. "Role Selection and Team Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 5892, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    9. George A. Gonzalez, 2016. "Transforming Energy: Solving Climate Change with Technology Policy . New York : Cambridge University Press . 360 pages. ISBN 9781107614970, $29.99 paperback. Anthony Patt , 2015 ," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 33(1), pages 111-113, January.
    10. Ho Fai Chan & Nikita Ferguson & David A. Savage & David Stadelmann & Benno Torgler, 2020. "Is Science Able to Perform Under Pressure? Insights from COVID-19," CREMA Working Paper Series 2020-07, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    11. Paul J. Healy & John Conlon & Yeochang Yoon, 2016. "Information Cascades with Informative Ratings: An Experimental Test," Working Papers 16-05, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
    12. Serhiy Kandul & Olexandr Nikolaychuk, 2017. "I deserve more! An experimental analysis of illusory ownership in dictator games," IRENE Working Papers 17-12, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.
    13. Serhiy Kandul & Oliver Kirchkamp, 2016. "Do I care if others lie? Current and future effects of delegation of lying," Jena Economic Research Papers 2016-011, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.
    14. Pavlova, Natalia (Павлова, Наталья) & Shastitko, Anastasia (Шаститко, Анастасия), 2017. "Behavioral Aspects of the Regulator's Actions [Поведенческие Аспекты Действий Регулятора]," Working Papers 051714, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
    15. Tasic Slavisa, 2011. "Are Regulators Rational?," Journal des Economistes et des Etudes Humaines, De Gruyter, vol. 17(1), pages 1-21, April.
    16. Abdolkarim Sadrieh & Marina Schröder, 2012. "The Desire to Influence Others," FEMM Working Papers 120027, Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Faculty of Economics and Management.
    17. Sadrieh, Abdolkarim & Schröder, Marina, 2016. "Materialistic, pro-social, anti-social, or mixed – A within-subject examination of self- and other-regarding preferences," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 114-124.
    18. Gernot Wagner & Richard Zeckhauser, 2012. "Climate policy: hard problem, soft thinking," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 110(3), pages 507-521, February.
    19. Cass Sunstein & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "Overreaction to Fearsome Risks," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 435-449, March.
    20. Baron, Jonathan & Ritov, Ilana, 2004. "Omission bias, individual differences, and normality," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 74-85, July.
    21. Krieger, Tim & Meierrieks, Daniel, 2014. "How to deal with international terrorism," Discussion Paper Series 2014-03, University of Freiburg, Wilfried Guth Endowed Chair for Constitutional Political Economy and Competition Policy.
    22. Roy, Devjani & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2013. "Ignorance: Lessons from the Laboratory of Literature," Working Paper Series rwp13-039, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    23. Azar, Ofer H., 2014. "The default heuristic in strategic decision making: When is it optimal to choose the default without investing in information search?," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 67(8), pages 1744-1748.
    24. Jeannette Brosig‐Koch & Nadja Kairies‐Schwarz & Johanna Kokot, 2017. "Sorting into payment schemes and medical treatment: A laboratory experiment," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(S3), pages 52-65, December.

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