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Abstract

An experiment is undertaken to assess how the level of information provided to survey groups impacts upon the decisions they make. In this experiment, a group of experts is surveyed first to determine both the forms and levels of information important to them regarding an obscure environmental resource (remote mountain lakes), as well as their ranking of particular examples of these resources in accordance with their own criteria. Then three different groups of respondents are given different levels of this information to assess how their WTP for the resources responds to varying levels of this information, and how their rankings of the different goods alters with the information provided. The study reports evidence that generally increased levels of information provide significant quantitative changes in aggregate WTP (the enhancement effect), as well as a credible impact on their ranking of the various goods. On closer examination, much of the enhancement effect appears to be attributable to the changes in ranking, and to changes in the WTP for a single lake at each level of information. In addition the ranking does not respond in any consistent or coherent fashion during the experiment until the information provided is complete, including a ranking of subjectively reported importance by the expert group, and then the survey group converges upon the expert’s group rankings. In sum, the experiment generates evidence that is both consistent with the anticipated effects of increased levels of information but also consistent with the communication of information-embedded preferences of the expert group. It may not be possible to communicate expert-provided information to survey groups without simultaneously communicating their preferences.

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