The measurement of subjective value and its relation to contingent valuation and environmental public goods

Mel W. Khaw, Denise A. Grab, Michael A. Livermore, Christian A. Vossler, Paul Glimcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Environmental public goods-including national parks, clean air/water, and ecosystem services- provide substantial benefits on a global scale. These goods have unique characteristics in that they are typically "nonmarket" goods, with values from both use and passive use that accrue to a large number of individuals both in current and future generations. In this study, we test the hypothesis that neural signals in areas correlated with subjective valuations for essentially all other previously studied categories of goods (ventromedial prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum) also correlate with environmental valuations.We use contingent valuation (CV) as our behavioral tool for measuring valuations of environmental public goods. CV is a standard stated preference approach that presents survey respondents with information on an issue and asks questions that help policymakers determine how much citizens are willing to pay for a public good or policy. We scanned human subjects while they viewed environmental proposals, along with three other classes of goods. The presentation of all four classes of goods yielded robust and similar patterns of temporally synchronized brain activation within attentionalnetworks. The activations associated with the traditional classes of goods replicate previous correlations between neural activity in valuation areas and behavioral preferences. In contrast, CV-elicited values for environmental proposals did not correlate with brain activity at either the individual or population level. For a sub-population of participants, CV-elicited values were correlated with activity within the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, a region associated with cognitive control and shifting decision strategies. The results show that neural activity associated with the subjective valuation of environmental proposals differs profoundly from the neural activity associated with previously examined goods and preference measures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0132842
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 29 2015

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contingent valuation
ecological value
Prefrontal Cortex
Brain
Chemical activation
Social Responsibility
Ecosystems
Population
Ecosystem
Air
brain
Water
ecosystem services
national parks
air
Surveys and Questionnaires
water
testing
Recreational Parks
Ventral Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

The measurement of subjective value and its relation to contingent valuation and environmental public goods. / Khaw, Mel W.; Grab, Denise A.; Livermore, Michael A.; Vossler, Christian A.; Glimcher, Paul.

In: PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 7, e0132842, 29.07.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Khaw, Mel W. ; Grab, Denise A. ; Livermore, Michael A. ; Vossler, Christian A. ; Glimcher, Paul. / The measurement of subjective value and its relation to contingent valuation and environmental public goods. In: PLoS One. 2015 ; Vol. 10, No. 7.
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