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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) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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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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