Social Learning About Environmental Innovations: Experimental Analysis of Adoption Timing
37 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2017
Date Written: January 25, 2017
Laboratory experiments were conducted to investigate how private and public information affect the selection of an innovation and the timing of adoption. The results shed light on the behavioral anomaly called the "energy-efficiency gap" in which consumers and firms delay adoption of cost-effective energy and environmental innovations. The subjects chose between competing innovations with freedom to select the timing of their adoption, relying on private signals and possibly observation of their peers. When deciding whether to make an irreversible choice between safe and risky technologies, roughly half the subjects delayed adoption beyond the time indicated by equilibrium behavior -- confirming the behavioral anomaly found for environmental innovations. When they did adopt, the subjects gave proportionately more weight to their private signals than to the actions of their peers, implying they do not "herd" on the latter. Nevertheless, when the subjects observed their peers' decisions, they did accelerate the timing of their adoption despite not necessarily imitating their peers. This result occurred even when the payoffs were statistically independent, as if observing prior adoptions exerted 'peer pressure' on the subjects to act. The experimental results suggest that rapid dissemination of information about peer actions can speed up the diffusion of environmental innovations and improve selection among competing technologies.
Keywords: Science Education, Global Environment, Science Mathematics and Technology, Scientific Information & Communications Technologies, Innovation, Science Policies, Biotechnology, General Technology
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