1 Management School, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China 2 School of Economics and Management, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510006, China 3 Accenture (China) Co., Ltd. Guangzhou Branch, Guangzhou 510898, China);
Environmental issues are currently of particular concern in the world. Thus, it is important to understand the processes that contribute to prudent long-term choices regarding the environment. To this end, it is important to study environmental intertemporal choice, especially the improvement of foresight in environmental time discounting.
The present research combined questionnaire-based, lab-based and field studies to investigate whether “Foresight for the Future of Our Children” decreased time discounting in environmental intertemporal choice. Study 1 probed the link between pregnancy and environmental intertemporal choice. Study 2 aimed to replicate the results from Study 1 by controlling for the confounding variables of the physiological state of pregnancy in a lab experiment. In Study 3, a priming paradigm was developed to test this hypothesis. Participants were instructed to indicate their degree of support for specific environmental policies after the benefits of the policy were described. The test materials were the same in the experimental and control groups with the exception that an additional phrase was included in the experimental condition: “To leave our children with blue sky, green earth, clear water, and a beautiful home”. Building on Study 3, Study 4 employed a similar nudge-like intervention to investigate the effects of “Foresight for the Future of Our Children” on the extent to which participants support a federal environmental policy and donation incentive for charitable organizations.
Study 1 indicated that pregnancy increased long-term thought in environmental intertemporal choice and decreased the temporal discounting rate through comparisons between pregnant and non-pregnant participants. Moreover, long-term thinking mediated the effect of pregnancy on the discounting rate in environmental intertemporal choice. Study 2 replicated the results of Study 1 regarding the links between the psychological priming of pregnancy and the discount rate in environmental intertemporal choice. The first two studies investigated whether natural pregnancy influenced the time discounting rate in environmental intertemporal choice. Based on these results, Study 3 tested the intervention hypothesis, which suggests that the subtle priming associated with the characteristics of pregnancy would influence the degree of support for long-term environmental policies. The results demonstrated that a simple prime that referred to “Foresight for the Future of Our Children” increased long-term thinking in intertemporal choice. Importantly, we produced similar nudging effects in Study 4 and showed that “Foresight for the Future of Our Children” increased the donation incentive towards a charity that aimed to improve the environment of China.
The results from our four studies provide consistent evidence that “Foresight for the Future of Our Children” decreased myopic behaviour in environmental intertemporal choice. These results are crucial for the design of nudge interventions that improve the long-term interests of both individuals and collectives while persevering the freedom of individual choice. Furthermore, this research also sheds light on the theoretical attributions to underlying intertemporal models and the effects of the physiological state of pregnancy on choice.
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