Article

Policies Designed for Self-Interested Citizens May Undermine “The Moral Sentiments”: Evidence from Economic Experiments

Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 31.48). 07/2008; 320(5883):1605-9. DOI: 10.1126/science.1152110
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT High-performance organizations and economies work on the basis not only of material interests but also of Adam Smith's "moral sentiments." Well-designed laws and public policies can harness self-interest for the common good. However, incentives that appeal to self-interest may fail when they undermine the moral values that lead people to act altruistically or in other public-spirited ways. Behavioral experiments reviewed here suggest that economic incentives may be counterproductive when they signal that selfishness is an appropriate response; constitute a learning environment through which over time people come to adopt more self-interested motivations; compromise the individual's sense of self-determination and thereby degrade intrinsic motivations; or convey a message of distrust, disrespect, and unfair intent. Many of these unintended effects of incentives occur because people act not only to acquire economic goods and services but also to constitute themselves as dignified, autonomous, and moral individuals. Good organizational and institutional design can channel the material interests for the achievement of social goals while also enhancing the contribution of the moral sentiments to the same ends.

Download full-text

Full-text

Available from: Samuel Bowles, Aug 14, 2015
2 Followers
 · 
140 Views
  • Source
    • "As Bruno Frey (1997) evocatively puts it, a constitution for knaves may produce knaves by crowding out civic virtues. Thus, policies designed for self-interested citizens may undermine the moral values that lead people to act altruistically or in other public-spirited ways (Bowles, 2008). Treating environmental problems as externalities and people as self-interested actors with unrestrained capacities to damage the environment is likely to foster such behavior and thwart altruistic behavior, creating the need for constant monitoring or endless rewards. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In response to the limited success of command-and-control interventions to ensure environmental stewardship, policy makers and practitioners have turned to financial payments to incentivize conservation. Many scholars and practitioners, including ecological economists, have cautioned that market-based approaches might modify human ways of relating to nature that are counterproductive to long-term conservation goals. Moving beyond critique, this article invites attention to the reconceptualization of environmental care labor and human–environment relations using the ideas of gift, reciprocity, and affect. Using the case of forest conservation by rural communities in Odisha, India, I discuss how the paradigm of the gift helps us to rethink transactions in ecosystem services, which might lead to more equitable and empowering ways of sharing of the burden and joy of environmental care. I argue that instead of framing conservation as a burdensome activity that entails sacrifice and costs alone, we need to pay attention to the joyful and life-affirming aspects of conservation care labor and its transformative potential.
    Ecological Economics 09/2015; 117. DOI:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2015.06.011 · 2.52 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "For instance, the effect of framing for (environmental) decision making is widely acknowledged in psychology (Tversky and Kahneman 1981, Satterfield et al 2000, Hsee and Rottenstreich 2004, Bolderdijk et al 2013) and linguistics (Lakoff 2010). For the conservation context, there is some empirical evidence that economic incentives (e.g., within PES) can crowd out non-economic motivations for conservation action (Bowles 2008, Rode et al 2015). Framing effects are one among several possible psychological mechanisms to explain such an effect. "
    [Show description] [Hide description]
    DESCRIPTION: Abstract: Nature conservation scientists and practitioners have voiced the concern that a conservation discourse based on economic arguments and monetary valuation may undermine conservation efforts by eroding (“crowding out”) the influence of other arguments for nature conservation. This paper presents the results of a decision experiment in which nature conservation is framed using an economic, a non-economic, or a combined discourse before participants take hypothetical decisions on the construction of hydropower dams in the Bolivian Amazon. We find that an economic discourse with monetary valuation framing leads to significantly fewer pro-conservation decisions, that is, decisions against dam construction. This is the case when a cost-benefit analysis inclusive of environmental costs reveals that the dam is economically viable (i.e., there remains a trade-off between economics and conservation), but also when such a costs-benefit analysis indicates that the dam is not viable (i.e., no trade-off). The results suggest that an economic discourse with monetary valuation framing can indeed undermine nature conservation efforts. They also suggest that the effect can be avoided, however, by presenting non-economic arguments side by side with an economic rationale.
  • Source
    • "This crowding out of internal motivation can lead to lower effort than might otherwise be achieved if internal motivation was driving stewardship behavior. Individuals may expend no more effort on a task than is minimally required by an incentive agreement (Heyman and Ariely 2004; Bowles 2008). Relatedly, financial incentives also can create the perception that it is the duty of someone else (e.g., government or NGO), rather than the individual, to contribute to the provision of biodiversity or ecosystem services. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The promise of environmental conservation incentive programs that provide direct payments in exchange for conservation outcomes is that they enhance the value of engaging in stewardship behaviors. An insidious but important concern is that a narrow focus on optimizing payment levels can ultimately suppress program participation and subvert participants' internal motivation to engage in long-term conservation behaviors. Increasing participation and engendering stewardship can be achieved by recognizing that participation is not simply a function of the payment; it is a function of the overall structure and administration of the program. Key to creating innovative and more sustainable programs is fitting them within the existing needs and values of target participants. By focusing on empathy for participants, co-designing program approaches, and learning from the rapid prototyping of program concepts, a human-centered approach to conservation incentive program design enhances the propensity for discovery of novel and innovative solutions to pressing conservation issues.
    AMBIO A Journal of the Human Environment 04/2015; DOI:10.1007/s13280-015-0650-z · 2.97 Impact Factor
Show more