Experimental Design Details
STEP 1: Recruitment
Participants are recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) using the online service Cloud Research. A brief description of the task and compensation offered will be provided to the MTurk Worker. If a Worker chooses to participate, they will accept the task and click on the survey link.
STEP 2: Informed Consent
Participants who accept the task on MTurk will be directed to a survey experiment implemented using Qualtrics. Participants will first encounter the informed consent document. Participants who would like to proceed with the study will choose the appropriate option at the bottom of the screen. Those who do not wish to participate can choose to exit the study at this time. When they exit they are reminded that they will not receive compensation and are asked to please return the assignment (referred to on MTurk as a Human Intelligence Task (HIT)).
STEP 3: Context-Free Scenario
All participants first receive a generic scenario in which they are asked to rate the fairness of the actions of an externality-producing entity and a government entity attempting to address the externality on a scale from 1 (Very Unfair) to 7 (Very Fair). Phrases within the scenario are randomized to control for a set of characteristics and to test the effects of the framing of the externality. For example, we randomize (i) the entity creating the externality (consumer or producer (local business, multinational corporation, public utility)), (ii) the scale of the external costs (how many bystanders are affected/how far-reaching are the damages), and (iii) the ability of the entity to avoid creating the externality (cost of producing a clean good/availability of close substitutes).
To determine the effects of framing on fairness attitudes we vary the description of the externality in three ways. First, the externality-producing entity is described as (i) stealing bystanders’ well-being, (ii) expropriating bystanders’ well-being, (iii) reducing the bystanders’ well-being as a byproduct, and (iv) reducing the bystanders’ well-being while making the externality-producing entity better off. Second, the entity is described as either (i) neglecting to consider the external costs of their actions, or (ii) not considering the external costs of their actions. Finally, the effect of government intervention (randomly chosen from (i) implementation of a tax, (ii) implementation of a technological requirement, or (iii) prohibition of the externality-causing activity) is described in one of two ways: (i) after the government intervention, the social optimum is reached and the benefits to society as a whole are maximized, or (ii) after the government intervention, the social optimum is reached and the benefits to society as a whole are maximized, but some external costs and their consequences still exist.
A comprehension question is asked alongside the presentation of the scenario and participants are reminded that their bonus payment will be determined by these comprehension checks.
STEP 4: Real-Life Scenarios
Next, participants receive four additional vignettes that describe real-life scenarios: (i) the dumping of pesticides into a river in a developing country, (ii) the dumping of pesticides into a river in Wisconsin, (iii) air pollution created by an electricity-producer in Ohio, and (iv) the pollution of an estuary by consumers using phosphorus-containing detergents. intervene. As in the context-free scenario, participants will receive a random set of conditions within their vignette.
A comprehension question is asked alongside the presentation of each of these scenarios and participants are again reminded that their bonus payment will be determined by these comprehension checks.
STEP 5: Market and Environmental Attitudes (To control for order effects, half of participants will receive these blocks of questions prior to STEP 3)
During this step, participants answer 12 questions about their market attitudes and 8 questions about their environmental attitudes. The order of the market attitudes and environmental attitudes blocks are randomized and the question order within blocks is also randomized.
STEP 6: Socio-Demographic Information
Next, participants are asked to answer some questions about themselves, including educational attainment, race/ethnicity, gender, income, political ideology, religiosity, etc.
STEP 7: End of Study Message & Procedures
Finally, participants receive an end-of-study message containing a confirmation code that they are asked to enter into MTurk to receive payment for their task. At this time, participants are also informed about the amount of their bonus earned from answering the comprehension questions that were asked with each of the five scenarios.