A question that arises in the application of environmental choice modelling
(CM) studies is whether to present the choice sets in a generic or labelle
d form. The former involves labelling the policy options to be presented to
respondents in a generic way, for example, as 'option A','option B', etc.
The labelled approach assigns alternative-specific descriptors to each opti
on. These may relate to the names of proposed policies, different locations
or any other policy-relevant details. Both approaches have their advantage
s. A potential advantage of using alternative-specific labels is that respo
ndents may be better able to base their choices on the true policy context.
This can increase predictive validity whilst at the same lime reducing the
cognitive burden of the CM exercise. A potential advantage of the generic
labelling approach is that respondents may be less inclined to base their c
hoices wholly or largely on the labels, and as a consequence, may provide b
etter information regarding trade-offs among attributes. The two approaches
to choice set design are compared in the context of a CM study of the valu
es of remnant vegetation in the Desert Uplands of Central Queensland. Resul
ts indicate a difference in the cognitive processes generated by choice mod
els using the different approaches. This difference is reflected in both th
e alternative-specific constants and the taste parameters, and cannot be ac
counted for by differences in error variance across the two treatments. The
implications for environmental valuation are discussed. (C) 2000 Elsevier
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