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Essays in behavioural public policy

Sotis, Chiara (2023) Essays in behavioural public policy. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004526


This thesis explores the impact of novel interventions in the environmental and health domains, and specifically investigates conditions to increase their effectiveness. In my first chapter I present evidence from a field experiment leveraging place attachment and football preferences to reduce the use of carrier bags in supermarkets. I find that the treatment reduces the use by 8-12% and that the effect persists even after the end of the treatment period. I propose ways in which a regulator can scale up this intervention at virtually no cost. In my second chapter I present the results of two online experiments studying whether the choice of colours in the visuals included in the IPCC Report affects the support for policies aimed at mitigating global warming. The results show that some colour schemes can affect understanding of climate visuals and participants’ support for a carbon tax. In the next two chapters I study the role of framing in shaping support for policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. In chapter 3, I show that when the number of Covid-19 related deaths is reported on a logarithmic scale people have a less accurate understanding of how the pandemic has developed, make less accurate predictions on its evolution, and have different policy preferences than those who are exposed to the same data on a linear scale. In my fourth chapter I study preferences for Covid-19 immunity passports for international travel and whether two nudges, used in isolation or together, foster support for their adoption. I find that both nudges increase the support for the passport and that their impact is stronger when they are used together. In my experiments I find that the level of worry about an issue influences behaviours and policy preferences, so I devote my fifth chapter to study how different concerns interact in people’s minds. I show that theories that were previously perceived to be mutually exclusive can coexist. I find that the relationship between the concern for the environment and the economy is often asymmetric: concerns for the economy typically reduce concerns for the environment, while concerns for the environment foster concerns about the economy. In the final chapter I present a theory model that builds on the findings of the previous papers. I introduce a two-period model of reference-dependent preferences where (behavioural) interventions are a signal agents receive between the periods. The signal causes a biased Bayesian updating that leads to different choices in the second period. I show that this can explain heterogeneity in treatment effects and hence that a single model of preferences can explain polarisation and convergence of opinions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2023 Chiara Sotis
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Sets: Departments > Geography and Environment
Supervisor: Mourato, Susana and Groom, Ben

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