Behavioral economic investigations of mechanisms to enhance pro-environmental actions

PhD defence

Marius Samuel Alt


This thesis consists of four independent but related investigations of measures to enhance proenvironmental actions. In each of these studies, a behavioral economic approach is applied to assess and evaluate these measures from different angles. In the first part, I study the characteristics of prosocial and pro-environmental behavior by analyzing how variations in the action-set of a dictator game, e.g., give-take-frame, depend on group identities. I find that allocations in the take-frame are larger than in the give-frame for interactions with strangers, but the result reverses with decreasing social distance between decider and recipient. The second part is dedicated to the investigation of measures to enhance pro-environmental behavior and comprises three studies. First, I analyze the matching scheme’s potential as an endogenous conditional contribution mechanism to increase provisions to public goods. A particular focus lies on individual characteristics and how they can serve as predictors for behavior within the scheme. I observe that the scheme lacks the predicted efficiency, which can be explained by participants’ characteristics predetermining their behavior. Targeting based on these characteristics can increase efficiency by a factor of two. Second, I assess how different incentives to enhance a certain prosocial behavior spills over to other, unrelated prosocial decisions. I find that the application of nudges to enhance prosocial behavior also increases the willingness to incline in subsequent, unrelated prosocial behavior compared to an incentivation by monetary rewards, which tends to entail adverse effects on the willingness to behave prosocially in a subsequent task. In an in-depth analysis, I identify perceived pressure imposed through incentives as a driver of the respective behavioral spillovers. The thesis concludes with an investigation of the demand side of inventive schemes, which analyzes environmental policies as commitment devices to induce consistent pro-environmental behavior. The findings suggest that a significant fraction of participants voluntarily inclines in these commitment devices. This demand is largely heterogeneous across participants and depends on their characteristics and preferences. Additionally, I provide evidence that the demand for commitment can be increased by either postponing the pro-environmental behavior to a later stage or by increasing the number of other regulatees also affected by commitment.


Associate Professor Toke Reinhold Fosgaard, Department of Food and Resource Economics (IFRO), University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

(Chair) Professor Lars Gårn Hansen, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen.

Professor Uri Gneezy, University of California, San Diego.

Professor Henrik Orzen, University of Mannheim.

Master of Ceremony

Professor Christian Gamborg, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen.

How to participate

The PhD defence will be digital and take place via Zoom.

The defence is open to all.



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