In times like these we are all very much aware of the difficult choices doctors make and how critical medical infrastructure, or the lack there of it, influences people's lives. Our recent paper (published in PNAS) similarly deals with decisions that have long lasting impacts on people's health and well-being- the way societies choose to allocate environmental harms (e.g. polluting facilities) and environmental benefits (pollution reducing technologies).
Local environmental conditions, such as air and water quality, are shaped, in part, by how societies allocate environmental harms and benefits. Since environmental conditions have long-lasting impacts on people’s lives, understanding the psychology behind such allocation decisions is critical. Across studies, we demonstrate that people are less likely to support decisions that increase environmental equality when considering the allocation of environmental harms (vs. benefits). Our findings suggest that careful attention to the way that the allocation of environmental harms is presented to the public could change the support for decisions that address environmental inequality.