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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Destructive Behavior, Judgment, and Economic Decision-Making Under Thermal Stress

  • Author(s): Almås, Ingvild
  • Auffhammer, Maximilian
  • Bold, Tessa
  • Bolliger, Ian
  • Dembo, Aluma
  • Hsiang, Solomon M.
  • Kitamura, Shuhei
  • Miguel, Edward
  • Pickmans, Robert
  • et al.

Accumulating evidence indicates that environmental temperature substantially affects economic outcomes and violence, but the reasons for this linkage are not well understood. We systematically evaluate the effect of thermal stress on multiple dimensions of economic decisionmaking, judgment, and destructive behavior with 2,000 participants in Kenya and the US who were randomly assigned to different temperatures in a laboratory. We find that most dimensions of decision-making are unaffected by temperature. However, heat causes individuals to voluntarily destroy other participants' assets, with more pronounced effects during a period of heightened political conflict in Kenya.

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