International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics > Vol 10 > Issue 2

Behavioral Insights from Field Experiments in Environmental Economics

Daniel A. Brent, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University, USA, , Lana Friesen, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia, Lata Gangadharan, Department of Economics, Monash University, Australia, Andreas Leibbrandt, Department of Economics, Monash University, Australia
Suggested Citation
Daniel A. Brent, Lana Friesen, Lata Gangadharan and Andreas Leibbrandt (2017), "Behavioral Insights from Field Experiments in Environmental Economics", International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics: Vol. 10: No. 2, pp 95-143.

Publication Date: 04 May 2017
© 2017 D. A. Brent, L. Friesen, L. Gangadharan, and A. Leibbrandt
Environmental economics,  Collective action,  Fisheries,  Water,  Behavioral decision making
JEL Codes: C93Q50
Field experimentsEnvironmental economicsIntrinsic incentivesExtrinsic incentivesBehavioral economics


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In this article:
1. Introduction 
2. Experimental Methods 
3. Framed and Artefactual Field Experiments 
4. Natural Field Experiments: Energy and Water Conservation 
5. Theory 
6. Challenges with Field Experiments 
7. Discussion and Directions for Future Research 


Many environmental decisions are based on intrinsic motivations in addition to traditional economic incentives. Field experiments allow researchers to isolate a specific causal mechanism which can help advance our understanding of consumer and firm behavior in environmental markets. This article summarizes the literature on the use of field experiments in environmental economics, focusing on framed and artefactual field experiments as well as natural experiments targeting municipal energy and water demand. We set out a theoretical framework to improve the interpretation of results from field experiments in environmental economics. In addition to providing an overview of experimental methods and findings we also lay out a set of challenges for researchers interested in running a field experiment in environmental economics.