Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Apparently you can learn all about greedy rich people by giving psych experiment participants a few hundred dollars and seeing what they do with it.
Wealthier people do less in the struggle against climate change
This is the principal finding of a citizen science experiment where participants were encouraged to act collectively against global warming
UNIVERSITAT ROVIRA I VIRGILI
These are the principal findings of a study published in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, the University of Barcelona, the University of Zaragoza and the Carlos III University of Madrid, who measured how a group of individuals acted in the face of a common threat.
To do so they designed a “lab-in-the-field” experiment involving more than 320 individuals divided into 54 groups of 6 people. The experiment was conducted as follows. A total of 240 euros was given to each group of individuals. Each member of the group was given a specific amount of money. In half of the groups the 240 euros were divided evenly into 40 euros for each member. In the other half, the money was distributed unevenly in quantities from 20 to 60 euros. Over the course of ten rounds, each person then had to contribute to a common fund in order to reach a specific goal, namely 120 euros to be used in an activity against climate change, in this case planting trees in Collserola. The participants were allowed to keep any money that was left over. At the start of the experiment, each participant knew how much money the other had and at the end of each round they could see how much money each person had contributed.
In this way, the researchers were able to test the economic effort that each individual was prepared to make for a common benefit, in this instance the fight against climate change. The results showed that, although all the groups achieved the collective goal of 120 euros, “the effort distribution was highly inequitable”, explained Jordi Duch, from the Alephsys (Algorithms Embedded in Physical Systems) research group at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Specifically participants with fewer resources contributed significantly more to the public good than the richer, sometimes up to twice as much. The researchers concluded that the poorest participants congregated within the two “generous clusters” whereas the richest were mostly classified into a “greedy cluster”. The results suggest that future policies could be improved if they reinforced climate justice actions in favour of the most vulnerable people and taught the importance of fairness rather than focusing on teaching people about generic or global climate consequences, as the latter have not been proven to lead to equitable contributions.
The abstract of the study;
Resource heterogeneity leads to unjust effort distribution in climate change mitigation
Julian Vicens, Nereida Bueno-Guerra, Mario Gutiérrez-Roig, Carlos Gracia-Lázaro, Jesús Gómez-Gardeñes, Josep Perelló, Angel Sánchez, Yamir Moreno, Jordi Duch
Published: October 31, 2018
Climate change mitigation is a shared global challenge that involves collective action of a set of individuals with different tendencies to cooperation. However, we lack an understanding of the effect of resource inequality when diverse actors interact together towards a common goal. Here, we report the results of a collective-risk dilemma experiment in which groups of individuals were initially given either equal or unequal endowments. We found that the effort distribution was highly inequitable, with participants with fewer resources contributing significantly more to the public goods than the richer −sometimes twice as much. An unsupervised learning algorithm classified the subjects according to their individual behavior, finding the poorest participants within two “generous clusters” and the richest into a “greedy cluster”. Our results suggest that policies would benefit from educating about fairness and reinforcing climate justice actions addressed to vulnerable people instead of focusing on understanding generic or global climate consequences.
A skeptic might suggest that giving an impoverished psych experiment participant €120 probably doesn’t make them think like a rich person; it probably makes them think like a student who just pocketed enough cash to have a wild time this weekend in Barcelona.