Environmental Economics

Distinguishing Values from Valuation in a Policy Relevant Manner

  • Abstract
    This project will attempt to improve methods for values elicitation. Contemporary techniques such as willingness to pay and cost benefit analysis provide a narrow economic measure of value and fail to include emotional or moral content that is at the core of any value. This research will develop and utilize three experimental techniques for eliciting values embedded in narratives and discourse, and rich in moral and emotional context. The values elicited by these techniques will be compared to the methods and findings of other researchers interested in environmental values. In the second stage, the findings will be used to measure support for environmental action decisions.
  • Metadata
    Principal Investigators:
    Satterfield, Theresa
    Technical Liaison:
    Research Organization:
    Decision Science Research Institute
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  • Project Reports
  • Project Status Reports

    This project is rooted in current efforts to identify environment-centered values not amenable to economic frameworks. We argue that some some values are ex- pressed discursively, embedded in the contextually, emotively, and morally rich stories and narratives through which we define ourselves and our actions in relation to natural systems. This project’s goal is to develop tools that contribute both theoretically and empirically to construct narrative values. Narrative pro- cesses offer new opportunities to express and elicit core values that reflect the visceral and varied ways in which stakeholders are invested in certain natural systems.

    A series of narrative-based tasks for interview and paper-and-pencil contexts have been conducted. These include the use of nature photography to evoke value information in a storied form; the use of environ- mental-conflict narratives to initiate a series of values reflection tasks; and the use of story-completion tasks to elicit value-based justifications for proposed actions. Insight from a series of interviews with professional nature writers also has been drawn.

    Some of the values elicited as part of this project are similar to those emphasized in other social and economic evaluations. Other values elicited as part of this project have a distinctly noneconomic cast, as realized by the ability of narrative to summon such things as embodied values (expressed as sensory experiences that emphasize affect, express interdependencies between the human and biotic community, and juxtapose objective and subjective valuations of natural phenomena); recovery values (expressions that place the historical-temporal evolution of biotic life at the center of judgments about natural resource uses); embedded values (the recognition that some values defy verbal characterization; they are buried in imagistic descrip- tions but are otherwise unnamed and unnameable); and creativity values (valuations of nature as the source of human thought and ingenuity). Finally, the investiga- tors have found that narrative forms are especially proficient for motivating values reflection because stories tend to focus on concrete, vivid detail told through the eyes of a character with whom the reader can identify.

    Succeeding research efforts will clarify the strengths and weaknesses of narrative frames by com-paring them to logical-justificatory frames and to tools used by economic and decision analysts (e.g., multi-attribute utility theory, contingent valuation, and cost-benefit analyses). A staged design—the comparative framing exercise shown in Figure 1—will be tested in both focus group and multiple-subject contexts.

    The application of technical approaches to valuation (e.g., CVM, CBA, etc.) is often frustrated by the fact that so many lay stakeholders, especially those in smaller resource communities, do not think about values in a manner amenable to the technical approaches currently in use or are critical of valuation approaches for embracing overly narrow conceptions of value. There is a tension between policy initiatives aimed at incorporating public values and the discursive frame in which those values are expressed by lay persons. We, as policy researchers, hope to begin closing that gap or ameliorating that tension by developing narrative tools for the expression, elicitation, and incorporation of values.

    Figure 1. Proposed comparative framing exercise (not available)