Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 67, Issue 3, pp 455–477 | Cite as

Giving is a Question of Time: Response Times and Contributions to an Environmental Public Good

  • Johannes LohseEmail author
  • Timo Goeschl
  • Johannes H. Diederich


Does it matter whether contribution decisions regarding environmental public goods are arrived at through intuition or reflection? Experimental research in behavioral economics has recently adopted dual-system theories of the mind from psychology in order to address this question. This research uses response time data in public good games to distinguish between the two distinct cognitive processes. We extend this literature towards environmental public goods by analyzing response time data from an online experiment in which over 3400 subjects from the general population faced a dichotomous choice between receiving a monetary payment or contributing to climate change mitigation efforts. Our evidence confirms a strong positive link between response times and contributions: The average response time of contributors is 40 % higher than that of non-contributors. This suggests that reflection, not intuition, is at the root of pro-environmental contributions. This result is robust to a comprehensive set of robustness checks, including a within-subjects analysis that controls for potentially unobserved confounds and recovers the relationship at the individual level.


Public goods Cooperation Dual-system theories Response times Climate change Online experiment 

JEL Classification

C93 H41 D03 



The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support by the German Science Foundation (DFG) under Grant GO1604/1 and the German Ministry for Education and Research under grant OIUV1012. Furthermore, we would like to thank the audiences at IMEBESS Oxford, RGS Bochum, HSC New York, RES Manchester, and ZEW Behavioral Environmental Economics Workshop Mannheim for their valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johannes Lohse
    • 1
    Email author
  • Timo Goeschl
    • 1
  • Johannes H. Diederich
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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