Environmental and Resource Economics

, Volume 51, Issue 4, pp 599–616 | Cite as

Modelling Heterogeneity in Response Behaviour Towards a Sequence of Discrete Choice Questions: A Probabilistic Decision Process Model

  • Ben J. McNair
  • David A. Hensher
  • Jeff Bennett


There is a growing body of evidence in the non-market valuation literature suggesting that responses to a sequence of discrete choice questions tend to violate the assumptions typically made by analysts regarding independence of responses and stability of preferences. Decision processes (or heuristics) such as value learning and strategic misrepresentation have been offered as explanations for these results. While a few studies have tested these heuristics as competing hypotheses, none has investigated the possibility that each explains the response behaviour of a subgroup of the population. In this paper, we make a contribution towards addressing this research gap by presenting a probabilistic decision process model designed to estimate the proportion of respondents employing defined heuristics. We demonstrate the model on binary and multinomial choice data sources and find three distinct types of response behaviour. The results suggest that accounting for heterogeneity in response behaviour may be a better way forward than attempting to identify a single heuristic to explain the behaviour of all respondents.


Choice experiment Decision process Ordering effects Strategic response Willingness to pay 

JEL Classification

C25 L94 Q51 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben J. McNair
    • 1
  • David A. Hensher
    • 2
  • Jeff Bennett
    • 1
  1. 1.Crawford School of Economics and GovernmentThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, The Business SchoolThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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