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Experiments in behavioural environmental economics

Shreedhar, Ganga (2018) Experiments in behavioural environmental economics. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.8sk00wlaqjtu


This thesis investigates what motivates people to protect the environment and protect themselves from environmental risks. Specifically, the essays aim to enhance our understanding of how individual and situational factors drive decision-making in three areas that lie at the heart of behavioural environmental economics: contributions towards protecting public goods like biodiversity, choices under risk from environmental externalities like air pollution, and cooperation over shared common pool resources. The overarching goal of the thesis is to unpack the complex processes behind decision making, to identify policy-relevant mechanisms to promote both planetary and human health and wellbeing. Given this, the essays adopt an experimental approach to study themes like pro-social behaviour, affect, risk preferences, beliefs and social influence, in conjunction with different information and incentive-based interventions. Paper 1 explores the direct impact of different types of audiovisual information through the charismatic megafauna and outrage effect on contributions to biodiversity conservation. It also signals that mixed emotions could be drivers of pro-sociality in the conservation context. Paper 2 charts the indirect spillover effects of these video interventions on subsequent pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Taken together, the papers highlight the potential of the narratives in videos to encourage public engagement and conservation action to address the sixth mass extinction event. Papers 3 and 4 explore the psycho-social determinants of avoidance behaviours amongst active travellers, namely cyclists in London. In Paper 3, risk perception rather than risk preferences seem to be a better predictor of avoidance behaviour in the context and sample studied. Domain-specific risk preferences via the willingness to take health risks showed more behavioural validity as regards risk-taking while cycling, and the evidence for cross-context validity was not strong. Paper 4 showed that underlying beliefs about air quality determine how individuals respond to social norm messaging. These results collectively suggest that subjective beliefs about environmental risks influence individual choice under uncertainty in the context of air pollution avoidance. Paper 5 explores how the peer monitoring and punishment network structure affects cooperation in a commons dilemma. The results suggest that although free-riders are punished in all networks, incomplete and connected networks elicit lower punishment towards those who deviate less than the socially optimal amount. The complete network elicits more punishment, leaving this network as the least efficient at least in the short-run. Although individuals are initially optimistic about others pro-sociality across networks, beliefs converge to the selfish equilibrium more rapidly in complete networks. The results show that the underlying socio-spatial structure of peer monitoring institutions has welfare implications.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Ganga Shreedhar
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Mourato, Susana and Tavoni, Alessandro

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