Thursday, December 30, 2010

Affective Forecasting and Optimal Environmental Behaviour

A recent paper in the Journal of Economic Psychology finds positive associations between pro-environmental behaviour and well-being, suggesting that pro-environmental consumption may be less than individually optimal due to decision-making biases. In other words, we would feel better if we helped preserve the environment more but due to a failure to appreciate the benefits of doing so engendered by affective misforecasting, we do less than would be even individually optimal, never mind societally optimal. There are now quite a few papers demonstrating potentially superior intra-person allocations in terms of quality of life, including work by Alois Stutzer and colleagues showing decreased quality of life induced by channel surfing , and happier lives among people who volunteer. David Comerford, who is currently a visiting scholar at Duke, worked on this issue here and has presented results showing that at least part of the decision utility from car-use is due to affective misforecasting. In general, this is an interesting and challenging literature that has obvious policy and philosophical relevance.

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