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Using neuroeconomics to understand environmental valuation

Nik Sawe

Ecological Economics, 2017, vol. 135, issue C, 1-9

Abstract: Contingent valuation, choice experiments, and other stated preference methods are frequently used to capture the nonmarket valuation of natural resources and ecosystem services. The emerging field of neuroeconomics, which assesses the neuroscience underlying decision-making, plots a promising course to explore the mechanisms underlying complex environmental valuation decisions. Neuroeconomic methods offer a unique capacity to isolate value components that contribute to willingness-to-pay (WTP), separating an individual's response to natural resource attributes that are of interest to economists from other attributes or influences on the decision process. Neuroimaging data can also aid in understanding differences in response between preference elicitation techniques and identifying the use of different decision processes and heuristics during valuation. This article surveys the benefits and limitations of using neuroeconomics methods to assess the value of environmental goods, and focuses on three examples where neuroeconomics may inform environmental valuation: protest responses, comparison of hypothetical and consequential choice contexts, and the evaluation of environmental attributes and optimization of study design in stated choice experiments. Neuroeconomics methods offer a foundation for positive collaboration between environmental economists and cognitive neuroscientists, yielding metrics that complement and augment current stated preference methods of determining environmental valuation.

Keywords: Contingent valuation; Willingness to pay; Neuroeconomics; Behavioral economics; Stated preference surveys (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2016.12.018

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