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Theme 2: Actor characteristics

The variety of actors potentially involved in large-scale collective actions, LSCA, is very large and includes nations, politicians, stakeholders, NGOs, resource users, consumers, and firms. The prospect of successful LSCA is dependent on the characteristics of these actors and the interactions among them.

The characteristics of actors that facilitate successful small-scale collective action include small group sizes, clearly defined boundaries, shared norms, social capital, appropriate leadership, and interdependence among group members. 
Many of these prerequisites are not satisfied for global challenges, where the group size, by definition, will be large. This means that some of the other characteristics will be even more important. Therefore, a major task for the centre is to assess the importance of these and other factors or characteristics also for actors other than individuals, for example states, firms, and international organisations.

Projects within Theme 2:

There exist quite significant amount of research and knowledge about which factors that have a positive effect on cooperation and hence collective action. For example, trust, sanctions (punishment) and strong leaders all have been shown to have a positive impact on contributing to a public good (referred to as cooperation) in experimental settings. However, it is less clear how such factors would affect cooperation under different public good regimes. This project aims to contribute to the literature on large scale collective action by developing a conceptual model and theoretical framework to understand the effects of traditional public good technology with a weakest link technology.

Participants: Fredrik Carlsson (Department of Economics, UoG), Claes Ek (Department of Economics, UoG), Andreas Lange (Hamburg University), The affiliated researchers are well-known economists working on social dilemmas, in particular voluntary actions related to climate change.

Theme: 1 and 2

The transition to a low-carbon economy will require drastic changes in most sectors, including energy, transport, agriculture, and various forms of manufacturing. Financial and political capital for achieving this is limited. Massive resource infusion and coordination between state and market actors are needed to develop and diffuse alternative technologies. This makes wise policy design imperative. Focusing on market and investment risks, we offer a conceptual framework that explains why no silver bullet policy or theoretical approach exists in regard to decarbonisation. Our framework also aids in the key task of matching problems and policies, thereby facilitating judicious use of resources and optimised climate benefits from resources spent.

Participants: Markus Johansson (Department of Political Science, UoG), David Langlet (Department of Law, UoG), Olof Larsson (Department of Political Science, UoG), Åsa Löfgren (Department of Economics, UoG), Niklas Harring (Department of Political Science, UoG), Sverker Jagers (Department of Political Science, UoG)

Theme: 2 and 3

There is an overwhelming risk that necessary policies are not introduced in time for environmental problems that are large scale. It is therefore important to also investigate voluntary policies, and in particular policies that are not mandatory. One such type of policies that have been growing in use in practice the last few years are so-called nudges. In this project we are interested in exploring the possibility of nudging for a more sustainable consumption. In particular we are interested in the long-run consequences, and under what conditions and contexts nudges can be successful.  We also explore how nudge can complement and/or substitute standard environmental policy instruments. Finally, we will also be investigating how citizens in different countries support different environmental policies, including nudges.

Participants: Fredrik Carlsson (Department of Economics, UoG), Mitesh Kataria (Department of Economics, UoG), Olof Johansson-Stenman (Department of Economics, UoG), Åsa Löfgren (Department of Economics, UoG), Katarina Nordblom (Department of Economics, UoG), Andreas Nilsson (Department of Psychology, UoG), André Hansla (Department of Psychology UoG), Magnus Bergquist (Department of Psychology, UoG)

Theme: 2

Several of the most severe problems of environmental degradation that the global society face today, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the rapid exploitation of natural resources, are due to lack of large-scale collective action. Hence, there is a demand for third-party intervention in order to achieve what can be described as regulated large-scale collective action. At present, there are a plethora of different types of environmental policy instruments, where some are more suitable in certain area and other more appropriate in other fields. However, the policy instruments that experts prefer and promote are not always the ones most appreciated by the public. So far research has mostly focused on certain instruments and has not successfully been able disentangled the effects of different kinds of trust on the support for/acceptance of certain instruments. Furthermore, there are other potential contextual factors that need to be investigated. In this research project we try to further scrutinize previous findings by studying how institutional and cultural factors explain policy preferences in different countries. The data used is a combination of cross-national surveys and data from the Citizens Panel provided by the Laboratory of Opinion Research.

Participants: Niklas Harring (Department of Political Science, UoG), Sverker Jagers (Department of Political Science, UoG), Dragana Davidovic (Department of Political Science, UoG), Andreas Nilsson (Department of Psychology, UoG) Thomas Sterner (Department of Economics, UoG), André Hansla (Department of Psychology, UoG), Emma Ejelöv, (Department of Psychology, UoG) 

Theme: 2 and 3

Antibiotic resistance is a multilayer large-scale collective action dilemma. Individual patients may request antibiotic therapy, but an overall reduction in antibiotic use is necessary to limit resistance. Likewise, physicians may sometimes be tempted to circumvent guidelines regarding prescriptions of antibiotics, in order to sustain trustful doctor-patient relationships. Thus, to limit unnecessary use of antibiotics, there is an urgent need for steering of antibiotic use, legitimate both in the eyes of patients and physicians. Making use of a hypothetical scenario experimental approach, one paper explores antecedents of support for steering among both patients and physicians. Since variation in antibiotic prescription patterns can be attributed both to patients’ request of antibiotics and physicians’ willingness to prescribe, this study investigate the influence of scenarios vignettes emphasizing 1) demand or 2) supply factors on the acceptability of regulatory/self-regulatory instruments. We will do this by using an experimental design on respondents in the Citizens Panel provided by Laboratory of Opinion Research. We have also conducted a large survey on attitudes and knowledge about antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance to a representative sample of Swedes, and the same study has also been sent out to a large sample of doctors and nurses.

Participants: Niklas Harring (Department of Political Science, UoG), Sverker Jagers (Department of Political Science, UoG), Björn Rönnerstrand (Department of Political Science, UoG – CARe), Fredrik Carlsson (Department of Economics, UoG), Elina Lampi (Department of Economics UoG).

Theme: 2 and 3

Environmental policies need to be implemented in order to manage large scale collective problems and to reach long-term environmental goal. In the same time, many of these policies are unpopular among the public. This project investigates, in a series of experimental studies, the role of social norms in influencing public attitudes towards the measures. Based on a vast amount of studies supporting the impact of social norms, we hypothesize that acceptance of policy measures can be increased by highlighting how other people think and behave with regard to these measures. Experimental studies analyzing causal influences on acceptability are largely lacking, the same applies to cross-disciplinary approaches. Thus, another major aim is to bring together social psychologists and political scientists to work on a set of population-based surveys on public acceptability.

Participants: Niklas Harring (Department of Political Science, UoG), Sverker Jagers (Department of Political Science, UoG), Andreas Nilsson (Department of Psychology, UoG), Simon Matti (Political Science Unit, Luleå University of Technology), Emma Ejelöv, UoG, André Hansla, UoG, Magnus Bergquist, UoG

Theme: 2 and 3

There are strong reasons to believe that different actors are more willing to cooperate if they are confident that other actors will do the same, both in the voluntary and regulated cases. This confidence can have different bases. For example, in the case of voluntary collective action, trusting the other actors seems particularly important, whereas political and institutional trust seems more important in the case of regulated collective action, i.e. trusting that the relevant authorities will enforce the relevant regulations. In our view, there is a need for conceptual analysis in this area, e.g. to distinguish between different forms and bases of trust. Toshio Yamagishi’s distinction between trust proper (e.g. where one expects the other to cooperate because of her benign intentions) and assurance (where the same expectation is based on the fact that the other has external incentives to cooperate) is but one starting point, as is the distinction between interpersonal and institutional trust (or assurance). We believe that a well-founded conceptualization of this area will give rise to better empirical studies.

Participants: Bengt Brülde (Department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of Science, UoG), Karl Persson de Fine Licht.

Theme: 2

In ethics and philosophy of law, a lot of work has been done on backward-looking responsibility, and there are commonly accepted criteria for when we should regard a certain actor as responsible for a certain action or outcome. It has been much less investigated how different agents in complex systems can share responsibility (“moral taint”, or the like) for outcomes they produce together. For example, how should moral responsibility be attributed and distributed in the case of “unstructured collective harms”, i.e. where many actors jointly cause significant harm, where no individual actor intends or can control the outcome, and when actions are uncoordinated, as in the case of climate change and other environmental harms?

It is not just important to study ”non-systemic” cases (e.g. where a number of individuals or companies pour waste products into a lake, thereby causing environmental harm), but also “systemic cases”. It seems particularly important to account for those cases where (i) the actors involved are not just individuals, but also e.g. corporations, states, and international institutions, and (ii) the behaviours of these actors are mediated by (e.g. constrained by) free markets or other economic or social systems. What complicates systemic issues like this is not just that the acts of the relevant agents (individual or collective) are e.g. restricted by social and economic systems in ways that often result in overdetermined outcomes, but also that these agents support the relevant systems when acting in accordance with them.

The reason why a purely normative study like this is of relevance for CeCAR is that it can help specify the beliefs that different actors have about their own responsibility (both backward-looking and forward-looking), a factor that may well have an effect on their willingness to cooperate.

Participants: Bengt Brülde (Department of Philosophy, Linguistics, and Theory of Science, UoG).

Theme: 2

This project concerns the willingness to pay of households in Sweden, China and the US to decrease greenhouse gases. We will also study changes in attitudes over time by comparing the results of this project with our earlier study in 2009 in the same countries (Carlsson et al., 2012). Another aim is to investigate how much citizens are prepared to pay for their country to be a front-runner and how that willingness to pay is affected by the likelihood of actually influencing other countries behaviour. Further, we will ask various organisations to frame the climate information provided in order to study how sensitive results are to the way in which such information is formulated and by whom. We use a survey targeting a representative selection of households. We investigate also whether divergence in attitudes and political, economic, and cultural differences can explain possible disparity in willingness to pay across the countries. The project is a collaboration between environmental economists at the University of Gothenburg with researchers in the US and China. It has received funding from the Swedish Energy Agency.

Participants: Åsa Löfgren (Department of Economics, UoG), Elina Lampi (Department of Economics, UoG), Mitesh Kataria (Department of Economics, UoG), Fredrik Carlsson (Department of Economics, UoG), Thomas Sterner (Department of Economics, UoG)

Theme: 2 and 3

To decelerate the growth of human antibiotics resistance, reducing total human antibiotics consumption is an important step. Thinking of antibiotics use as an outcome not only of a doctor’s or pharmacist’s expert opinion/decision, but also of patient opinion/behaviour, changing the latter is a goal for public antibiotics information campaigns. This project investigates the effects of emphasizing an overall collective harm or emphasizing direct individual health risks as a motivational strategy in the campaigns.

Participants: Felicia Robertson and Sverker C. Jagers, Department of Political Science, Andre Hansla and Andreas Nilsson, Department of Psychology.

Theme: 2

Felicia Robertson’s PhD project concerns how large-scale collective action can be created, either through regulations or norms for cooperation. Within the framework of her dissertation, she will explore how questions such as trust in other people, trust in institutions together with laws and regulations affect individuals’ willingness to contribute to a collective good or to reduce one’s overuse of such a good. Her focus is the overuse of antibiotics which is global in its scope and how this behavior of overuse can be diminished on a national level. She started her position September 1st and plan to graduate in September 2023.

Participants: Felicia Robertson, Department of Political Science

Theme: 2 and 3

The dissertation project explores international patterns in public support for environmental policy instruments, focusing on the interplay between people’s values, trust and perceptions of Quality of Government (QoG). The project investigates how the effects of individuals’ pro-environmental and political-ideological value orientations on support for environmental taxes vary across countries with different levels of QoG. Applying multilevel analyses on individual- and country-level data from international surveys, interactions between value orientations, trust, and QoG are explored. The causal relationships and underlying individual-level mechanisms are then investigated more in-depth using experimental methods. With these analyses, the dissertation project aims to explain some of the international variation in public support for environmental taxes and highlight the importance of institutional context.

Dragana Davidovic began her doctoral dissertation on September 1, 2017, and plans to finish his doctorate service in the fall of 2021. The project studies public acceptance of environmental policy instruments from an international perspective, focusing on the effects of values, trust and the quality of government. The project investigates how the impact of green and ideological values on acceptance for environmental taxes, environmental subsidies and environmental regulations varies in contexts with different degrees of QoG and trust. More specifically, the effect of green and ideological values on steering acceptance is assumed to be stronger in contexts with higher levels of QoG and thus also higher levels of trust. Using international surveys consisted of individual data and countries data mapping interaction effects between individual and context factors through multi-level analyses, and the causal relationships are then examined more closely using experimental methods. With these analyses, the dissertation aims at explaining some of the international variation that exists regarding public acceptance of environmental policy instruments.

Participants: Dragana Davidovic, Department of Political Science.

Theme: 2 and 3

The literature is divided on whether trust in other people can be increased or should be regarded as a fixed preference in large-scale settings. Most prevalent in recent years is the institutional perspective, according to which trustful institutions and their performance have the ability to foster trust among people. This dissertation project aims to explore how policy addressing large-scale collective action problems – with its potential of coordinating large-scale contributions and thereby fostering cooperative behavior – affects trust levels. The idea is to make use of natural experiment conditions stemming from real policies in order to avoid the problem of reversed causality.

Participants: Frida Nilsson, Department of Political Science.

Theme: 2 and 3

The hypothesis that experiencing weather events can affect environmental concerns have long been discussed, yet rarely investigated. This project investigates how experiencing weather events, such as warm or extreme weather, may influence climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour.

Participants. Andreas Nilsson (Department of psychology, UoG) Magnus Bergquist (Department of psychology, UoG), Emma Ejelöv (Department of psychology, UoG), André Hansla (Department of psychology, UoG) Niklas Harring (Department of Political Science, UoG) Sverker Jagers, (Department of Political Science, UoG), P.Wesley Schultz (California State University, San Marcos),

Theme: 2

This project aims to advance science and develop new tools, knowledge, and methods to support sustainable consumption of products and services. The project aims to evaluate the effect of providing information about carbon footprint in combination with various nudges have on individual’s consumption and lifestyle choices. . Based on a randomly drawn sample from the Swedish population, transaction data will be collected and tracked on all participants, while a randomly chosen subsample will be exposed to all, or parts of a carbon and consumption app called Svalna.

Participants: Fredrik Carlsson and Jakob Enlund (Department of Economics, UoG)

Theme: 2 and 3

Among possible policies to reduce municipal solid waste, the scope of so-called ‘pay-as-you-throw' (PAYT) systems, where waste fees vary with the amount generated, has been limited by perceived concerns about such marginal incentives driving illicit dumping of household waste. However, under PAYT, the household-specific weight data recorded during waste collection may be used to implement additional non-price interventions to reduce household waste. This project estimates the effect of such an intervention: presenting households with accurate feedback regarding their own waste behavior in comparison with that of their peers (neighbors). Evaluation is based on a pair of large-scale randomized controlled trials in Varberg and Partille, two municipalities in western Sweden. Our treatments vary the frequency of feedback (monthly or quarterly) as well as exactly what information is presented to households. Besides estimating any drop in residual waste caused by the feedback, we will be able to investigate various mechanisms driving such effects.

Participants: Claes Ek (Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg), Magnus Söderberg (Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics, University of Southern Denmark)

Theme: 2 and 3

Reduced waste generation is a prioritized environmental policy objective in many countries. In this project, we perform a randomized controlled trial with school children aged 10-16 to evaluate two variants of an Environmental Education Program (EEP) intervention designed to reduce household waste. Crucially, we are able to examine the causal effect of our waste-themed EEP on the actual waste generated in households where a child was exposed to the intervention. This is done by coupling the addresses of participating students with high-resolution address-level data on collected waste amounts, supplied by municipal waste authorities. Our design allows identification of the differential effect of the EEP compared to a control group.

Participants: Claes Ek (Department of Economics, University of Gothenburg), Magnus Söderberg (Department of Sociology, Environmental and Business Economics, University of Southern Denmark)

Theme: 2 and 3

Abstract: We will explore how different communication and education methods with different levels of connectedness with nature (from videos to immersion, and including new technologies such as virtual reality) influence individual change. We will focus on ocean acidification as a case study.

Participants: Sam Dupont (Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, UoG) and other interested CeCAR scholars.

Theme: 2