One model fits all? - On the moderating role of emotional engagement and confusion in the elicitation of preferences for climate change adaptation policies
Environmental economic and psychological studies often implicitly assume homogeneity of respondents' decision strategies in questionnaire-based surveys. However, social psychology and behavioural research suggest that there is a wide variety of approaches that individuals use to make such choices. We explore this heterogeneity against the backdrop of so-called ‘dual process models’, analysing participants' responses in a survey of public beliefs about and preferences for climate change adaptation policies. We find that the postulate of two different types of decision-making, the systematic–analytical and the heuristic–holistic, does indeed help us to understand patterns in respondent behaviour that are, in turn, underpinned by respondents' motivation and ability to process information. Participants who were motivated and able to process the information provided were more likely to express preferences in line with their beliefs about adaptation policies, whereas those less motivated and more confused were more likely to use generalised rules-of-thumb that were not specific to the policy issue at hand. Depending on the theoretical framework of a study, such heterogeneity in response consistency and use of generic rules-of-thumb might have implications for the usefulness of survey outcomes. We discuss the implications of our findings, and draw conclusions for survey-based environmental research.
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