Ortiz-Riomalo, Juan Felipe Koessler, Ann-Kathrin Engel, Stefanie
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Natural resource management often involves social dilemmas. Institutional and behavioural economics have shown that other-regarding preferences and pro-social behaviour can help overcome such dilemmas. Interventions that induce resource users to consider a perspective broader than their own may then be useful to promote and strengthen pro-social behaviour. Such interventions are often applied in participatory resource management approaches. To the best of our knowledge, nonetheless, no previous study has systematically assessed the effect of induced perspective-taking on resource users’ prosocial behaviour in a controlled manner. In this study, we do so in the context of watershed management. We conducted a lab-in-the-field experiment with downstream farmers in a Peruvian watershed. In the experiment, farmers were induced to imagine the perspective of upstream farmers before deciding on a donation that can help these upstream farmers improve their wellbeing without compromising the water supply downstream. We find that induced perspective-taking increases prosocial behaviour. This effect cannot be explained by the additional information on the social and ecological characteristics of the watershed received during the perspective-taking experience, nor by an ‘experimenter demand effect’. Rather the effect of the perspective-taking intervention is likely to work via an activation or strengthening of other-regarding preferences. Our results contribute to the study of pro-social behaviour and the ways it could be induced by interventions targeting other-regarding preferences.
perspective-taking prosocial behaviour other-regarding preferences social dilemmas natural resource management environmental policy framed field experiment