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Cognitive dissonance as a means of reducing hypothetical bias

  • Frode Alfnes
  • Chengyan Yue
  • Helen H. Jensen

Hypothetical bias is a persistent problem in stated preference studies. We propose and test a method for reducing hypothetical bias based on the cognitive dissonance literature in social psychology. A central element of this literature is that people prefer not to take inconsistent stands and will change their attitudes and behaviour to make them consistent. We find that participants in a stated preference willingness-to-pay study, when told that a nonhypothetical study of similar goods would follow, state significantly lower willingness to pay (WTP) than participants not so informed. In other words, participants adjust their stated WTP to avoid cognitive dissonance, that is, taking inconsistent stands on their WTP for the good being offered. Oxford University Press and Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics 2010; all rights reserved. For permissions, please email journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Foundation for the European Review of Agricultural Economics in its journal European Review of Agricultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 37 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (June)
Pages: 147-163

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Handle: RePEc:oup:erevae:v:37:y:2010:i:2:p:147-163
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  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.
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