Behavioral economics approaches towards education for sustainable development: The role of debiasing in sustainable consumption

Theme 4   Alternative teaching approaches.

Secondary school seachers.
Researchers and academics.

Loerwald, Dirk / Allbauer-J├╝rgensen, Markus / Betker, Katharina / Friebel-Piechotta, Stephan

In recent decades, the discipline of behavioral economics has been established as a new paradigm in economic research. Within behavioral economics, cognitive biases describe systematic deviations from rationality assumptions in individual and social processes of decision making. Among other factors, biases (e.g. present bias, status quo bias or bandwaggon effect) account for inconsistencies in consumption routines, particularly in the context of sustainable consumption. Despite their (stated) preferences for sustainable products and services, consumers tend to opt for alternatives that are at odds with their attitudes and behavioral intentions, a phenonemon described as the attitude behavior gap in sustainable consumption.

The attitude behavior gap provides valuable implications for both economic education and education for sustainable development (ESD). While in analogy with the concept of ESD 1, the literature on ESD has focussed mainly on the formation of normative competencies, reflexivity towards (consumption) behavior (ESD 2) remains yet to be addressed conceptually and empirically. Similarly, economic education has acknowledged behavioral economics as a relevant subject area but lacks didactical and methodical foundations for processes of teaching and learning. Focussing on biases as a driver of (un)sustainable consumption, our project addresses these gaps.

We will discuss the theoretical foundations and the development of interactive materials for 10th-grade students in German upper secondary schools. These materials introduce central cognitive biases that inhibit sustainable consumption as we develop decision experiments that frame biases in selected consumption situations. We propose debiasing as a teaching-learning-technique to challenge strategies of decision making.

In order to study the effectiveness of the debiasing interventions in the classroom, we conduct an experimental study, testing for the impact of two debiasing strategies (consider the opposite and accountability) on experimental decisions, reasoning and susceptibility-towards-bias scales. The research findings will consequently inform the final development of action-oriented teaching-learning sequences that address biases in sustainable consumption.

Presented by: Markus Allbauer-J├╝rgensen (1, 1) and Dirk Loerwald, Katharina Betker and Stephan Friebel-Piechotta

Interactive presentation

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