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Smog, Cognition and Real-World Decision Making


  • Chen, Xi


Cognitive functioning is critical as in our daily life a host of real-world complex decisions in high-stakes markets have to be made. The decision-making process can be vulnerable to environmental stressors. Summarizing the growing economic and epidemiologic evidence linking air pollution, cognition performance and real-world decision making, we first illustrate key physiological and psychological pathways between air pollution and cognition. We then document the main patterns of air pollution affecting cognitive test performance by type of cognitive tests, gender, window of exposure, age profile, and educational attainment. We further extend to a review of real-world decision making that has been found to be affected by air pollution and the resulting cognitive impairments. Finally, rich implications on environmental health policies are drawn based on existing evaluations of social costs of air pollution.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Xi, 2018. "Smog, Cognition and Real-World Decision Making," GLO Discussion Paper Series 266, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:266

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zhang, Xin & Zhang, Xiaobo & Chen, Xi, 2017. "Valuing Air Quality Using Happiness Data: The Case of China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 29-36.
    2. Anthony Heyes & Matthew Neidell & Soodeh Saberian, 2016. "The Effect of Air Pollution on Investor Behavior: Evidence from the S&P 500," NBER Working Papers 22753, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Zhang, Xin & Zhang, Xiaobo & Chen, Xi, 2015. "Happiness in the Air: How Does a Dirty Sky Affect Subjective Well-being?," IZA Discussion Papers 9312, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
    5. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo & Zhang, Xin, 2017. "Smog in Our Brains: Gender Differences in the Impact of Exposure to Air Pollution on Cognitive Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 10628, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Michael P. Keane & Susan Thorp, 2016. "Complex Decision Making: The Roles of Cognitive Limitations, Cognitive Decline and Ageing," Economics Papers 2016-W10, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    7. David Huffman & Raimond Maurer & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2016. "Time Discounting and Economic Decision-making among the Elderly," Working Papers wp347, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    8. Zhang, Xin & Zhang, Xiaobo & Chen, Xi, 2017. "Happiness in the air: How does a dirty sky affect mental health and subjective well-being?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 81-94.
    9. Keane, M.P. & Thorp, S., 2016. "Complex Decision Making," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, in: Piggott, John & Woodland, Alan (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 661-709, Elsevier.
    10. Hanming Fang & Michael Keane & Ahmed Khwaja & Martin Salm & Dan Silverman, 2007. "Testing the Mechanisms of Structural Models: The Case of the Mickey Mantle Effect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 53-59, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guo, Liwen & Cheng, Zhiming & Tani, Massimiliano & Cook, Sarah & Zhao, Jiaqi & Chen, Xi, 2022. "Air Pollution and Entrepreneurship," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1208, Global Labor Organization (GLO).

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    More about this item


    Air Pollution; Cognitive Performance; Intelligence; Decision Making;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G41 - Financial Economics - - Behavioral Finance - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making in Financial Markets
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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