The Value of Clean Air: Comparing Discounting of Delayed Air Quality and Money Across Magnitudes
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The detrimental health effects of exposure to air pollution are well established. Fostering behavioral change concerning air quality may be challenging because the detrimental health effects of exposure to air pollution are delayed. Delay discounting, a measure of impulsive choice, encapsulates this process of choosing between the immediate conveniences of behaviors that increase pollution and the delayed consequences of prolonged exposure to poor air quality. In Experiment 1, participants completed a series of delay-discounting tasks for air quality and money. We found that participants discounted delayed air quality more than money. In Experiment 2, we investigated whether the common finding that large amounts of money are discounted less steeply than small amounts of money generalized to larger and smaller improvements in air quality. Participants discounted larger improvements in air quality less steeply than smaller improvements, indicating that the discounting of air quality shares a similar process as the discounting of money. Our results indicate that the discounting of delayed money is strongly related to the discounting of delayed air quality and that similar mechanisms may be involved in the discounting of these qualitatively different outcomes. These data are also the first to demonstrate the malleability of delay discounting of air quality, and provide important public health implications for decreasing delay discounting of air quality.
KeywordsDelay discounting Intertemporal choice Behavioral economics Decision-making Air quality Environmental outcome Sustainability Conservation
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This research was funded in part by a Blue Goes Green grant awarded by the Utah State University Student Sustainability Office.
Conflict of Interest
All authors have declared that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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