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Sustainability 2013, 5(1), 357-371; doi:10.3390/su5010357

Enabling Eco-Friendly Choices by Relying on the Proportional-Thinking Heuristic

1,*  and 2
1 School of Computing and Electrical Engineering, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Mandi, 175001, India 2 Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15289, USA
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 October 2012 / Revised: 25 December 2012 / Accepted: 9 January 2013 / Published: 22 January 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Coping with Climate Change in Developing Countries)
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Ecological (eco) taxes are promising mechanisms to enable eco-friendly decisions, but few people prefer them. In this study, we present a way in which eco-tax options may be communicated to general public to encourage their payment. Our implementation (called “information presentation”) takes advantage of the non-linear relationship between eco-tax payments and CO2 emissions and the human reliance on the proportional-thinking heuristic. According to the proportional-thinking heuristic, people are likely to prefer a small eco-tax increase and judge larger eco-tax increases to cause proportionally greater CO2 emissions reductions. In an online study, participants were asked to choose between eco-tax increases in two problems: In one, a smaller eco-tax increase resulted in greater CO2 emissions reduction, while in the other, a smaller tax increase resulted in lesser CO2 emissions reduction. Although the larger eco-tax increase did not reduce CO2 emissions the most, across both problems, people judged larger eco-tax increases to cause proportionally greater reductions in CO2 emissions and preferred smaller tax increases. Thus, eco-tax policies would benefit by presenting information in terms of eco-tax increases, such that smaller eco-tax increases (which are more attractive and are likely to be chosen by people) cause greater CO2 emissions reductions.
Keywords: proportional thinking; eco-tax; climate change; carbon-dioxide emissions proportional thinking; eco-tax; climate change; carbon-dioxide emissions
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Dutt, V.; Gonzalez, C. Enabling Eco-Friendly Choices by Relying on the Proportional-Thinking Heuristic. Sustainability 2013, 5, 357-371.

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