We report five studies that examine preferences for the allocation of environmental harms and benefits. In all studies, participants were presented with scenarios in which an existing environmental inequality between two otherwise similar communities could either be decreased or increased through various allocation decisions. Our results demonstrate that despite well-established preferences toward equal outcomes, people express weaker preferences for options that increase equality when considering the allocation of environmental harms (e.g., building new polluting facilities) than when considering the allocation of environmental benefits (e.g., applying pollution-reducing technologies). We argue that this effect emerges from fairness considerations rooted in a psychological incompatibility between the allocation of harms, which is seen as an inherently unfair action, and equality, which is a basic fairness principle. Since the allocation of harms is an inevitable part of operations of both governments and businesses, our results suggest that where possible, parties interested in increasing environmental equality may benefit from framing such proposals as bestowing relative benefits instead of imposing relative harms.
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - 21 Apr 2020|
- Allocation decisions
- Environmental justice
- Harms vs. benefits
ASJC Scopus subject areas