Destructive Behavior, Judgment, and Economic Decision-Making Under Thermal Stress

94 Pages Posted: 2 May 2019 Last revised: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by Ingvild Almås

Ingvild Almås

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES)

Max Auffhammer

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics

Tessa Bold

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES)

Ian Bolliger

University of California, Berkeley - Energy and Resources Group

Aluma Dembo

University of Oxford - Department of Economics

Solomon Hsiang

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research

Shuhei Kitamura

Osaka University

Edward Miguel

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Robert Pickmans

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics

Date Written: April 2019

Abstract

Accumulating evidence indicates that environmental temperature substantially affects economic outcomes and violence, but the reasons for this linkage are only partially understood. While factors external to human beings (such as agricultural production) are known to respond adversely to high temperatures, extreme temperatures could also directly influence the internal mental processes governing decision-making. We study this by systematically evaluating the effect of thermal stress on multiple dimensions of economic decision-making, judgment, and destructive behavior with 2,000 participants in Kenya and the US who were randomly assigned to different temperatures in a laboratory. We find that heat significantly affects individuals’ willingness to voluntarily destroy other participants’ assets, with pronounced increases among those experiencing heightened political conflict in Kenya. We find that other major dimensions of economic decision making are largely unaffected by temperature.

Suggested Citation

Almås, Ingvild and Auffhammer, Maximilian and Bold, Tessa and Bolliger, Ian and Dembo, Aluma and Hsiang, Solomon and Kitamura, Shuhei and Miguel, Edward and Pickmans, Robert, Destructive Behavior, Judgment, and Economic Decision-Making Under Thermal Stress (April 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25785, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3380812

Ingvild Almås (Contact Author)

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) ( email )

Stockholm, SE-10691
Sweden

Maximilian Auffhammer

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Tessa Bold

Stockholm University - Institute for International Economic Studies (IIES) ( email )

Stockholm, SE-10691
Sweden

Ian Bolliger

University of California, Berkeley - Energy and Resources Group ( email )

United States

Aluma Dembo

University of Oxford - Department of Economics ( email )

New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

Solomon Hsiang

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

2607 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720-7320
United States

HOME PAGE: http://gspp.berkeley.edu/directories/faculty/solomon-hsiang

National Bureau of Economic Research ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Shuhei Kitamura

Osaka University ( email )

Edward Miguel

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert Pickmans

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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