Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 491–510 | Cite as

Tough and Easy Choices: Testing the Influence of Utility Difference on Stated Certainty-in-Choice in Choice Experiments

  • Søren Bøye OlsenEmail author
  • Thomas Hedemark Lundhede
  • Jette Bredahl Jacobsen
  • Bo Jellesmark Thorsen


Respondents in Stated Preference studies may be uncertain about their preferences for the good presented to them. Inspired by Wang (J Environ Econ Manag 32:219–232, 1997) we hypothesize that respondents’ stated certainty in choice increases with the utility difference between the alternative chosen and the best alternative to that. We test this hypothesis using data from two independent Choice Experiments both focusing on nature values. In modelling respondents’ self-reported certainty in choice, we find evidence that the stated level of certainty increases significantly as utility difference in choice sets increases. In addition, stated certainty increases with income. Furthermore, there is some evidence that male respondents are inherently more certain in their choices than females, and a learning effect may increase stated certainty. We find evidence of this in the first study where the good is described in rather broad and generic terms, but not in the second study where a more specific description of the good is used.


Choice experiment Environmental valuation Learning effect Respondent uncertainty Stated preferences Utility balance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Søren Bøye Olsen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Hedemark Lundhede
    • 2
  • Jette Bredahl Jacobsen
    • 2
  • Bo Jellesmark Thorsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Unit of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, Institute of Food and Resource Economics, Life Science FacultyUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark
  2. 2.Division of Economics, Policy and Management Planning, Forest and Landscape, Life Science Faculty, and Center for Macroecology, Evolution and ClimateUniversity of CopenhagenFrederiksberg CDenmark

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