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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thinking about time as money decreases environmental behavior Whillans, Ashley Victoria


Despite high profile environmental campaigns, Americans are no more likely to engage in environmental behavior today than they were 20 years ago. A novel explanation for this paradox may lie in the increasing tendency for people to see their time as money. National survey data suggests that seeing time as money is related to decreased environmental behavior. Using large-scale survey data (Study 1), we show that people are less likely to engage in environmental behavior if they are paid by the hour, a form of compensation that leads people to see their time as money. Using experimental methodology, we show that making the economic value of time salient lowers intentions to engage in environmental behavior (Studies 2 & 3) and actual recycling (Study 4). In Study 4, students led to see their time as money were five times less likely to recycle scrap paper when given the opportunity. In Study 5, we document a mechanism for this effect—individuals who are paid by the hour are chronically aware of the opportunity costs associated with engaging in everyday environmental behavior. Together, this research suggests that environmental decisions are shaped by viewing time as money, potentially shedding light on patterns of environmental behavior across time and around the world.

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