Tough and easy choices: Testing the influence of utility balance and other design issues on self-reported certainty levels

Respondents in Stated Preference studies may be uncertain about their preferences for the good presented to them. Inspired byWang (J Environ Econ Manag 32:219–232, 1997) we hypothesize that respondents’ stated certainty in choice increases with the utility difference between the alternative chosen and the best alternative to that.We test this hypothesis using data from two independent Choice Experiments both focusing on nature values. In modelling respondents’ self-reported certainty in choice, we find evidence that the stated level of certainty increases significantly as utility difference in choice sets increases. In addition, stated certainty increases with income. Furthermore, there is some evidence that male respondents are inherently more certain in their choices than females, and a learning effect may increase stated certainty. We find evidence of this in the first study where the good is described in rather broad and generic terms, but not in the second study where amore specific description of the good is used.