Cognitive Processes in Stated Preference Methods
In: Handbook of Environmental Economics
Cognitive psychology is best known, to many environmental economists, through the filter of acrimonious debates over the validity of contingent valuation methods (CVM). Psychologists' views on CVM reflect concerns that are deeply rooted in their profession's history and theories. Although psychologists have participated in some CVM studies, their roles have rarely allowed them to present a comprehensive design philosophy, illustrated in actual studies. This chapter sets psychologists' critiques and alternatives within a general cognitive perspective on value elicitation, including stated preferences for environmental goods. It begins with a historical review, organized around two converging streams of psychological research. One stream leads from psychophysics to attitude research. The second leads from decision theory to decision analysis and behavioral decision research. The next section reports some environmental valuation studies arising from each tradition. These studies do not directly monetize environmental goods. However, they can still directly inform policies that do not require monetization and indirectly inform policies that do, by shaping studies with that ambition. The following section considers the role of cognitive studies in helping investigators to know what issues matter to people and present them comprehensibly. The concluding section of the chapter presents a cognitive approach to stated preference methods for environmental values - one that could be developed most fully in collaboration with economists. It is built around a cognitive task analysis of the four main elements in any evaluation process: (a) specifying the valuation question, (b) understanding its terms, (c) articulating a value for that specific question (from more general basic values), and (d) expressing that value in a public form.
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