Temperature, behavior and economic choices

Temperature, behavior and economic choices

Project manager: Ingvild Almås


There is an extensive literature documenting a relationship between high temperature, conflict and poor economic performance, yet to date, little is known about the causal effect of temperature on individual decision-making (Burke et al., 2009; Hsiang et al., 2013). This question, important in and of itself, is made even more salient given the predicted rise in global temperature and variation in weather patterns. Related is a nascent literature addressing how environmental factors and neurobiology influence economic choices, which includes work on the psychology of poverty, hunger and stress (Mani et al., 2013; Bushman et al., 2014; Haushofer and Fehr, 2014). In this research project, we aim to study the causal effect of temperature on individual decision-making. To this end, we plan to conduct a sequence of modules at both the Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Experimental Social Science Laboratory (Xlab) at the University of California, Berkeley.

We will do an experiment which aim is to study the causal effect of temperature on individual decision-making. Through a series of lab modules, we will study the causal effect of temperature on standard economic choices and cognitive performance. In particular, we will be testing the effect of temperature variation on productivity, cognitive ability, pro-social behaviour, trust, trustworthiness, cooperation, destruction, time preferences and risk preferences.


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

Authors: Ingvild Almås, Max Auffhammer, Tessa Bold, Ian Bolliger, Aluma Dembo, Solomon Hsiang, Shuhei Kitamura, Edward Miguel & Robert Pickmans.

NBER Working Paper No. w25785

Core research team

Maximilian Auffhammer

UC Berkeley

Tessa Bold

Assistant Professor
Institute of International Economic Studies

Ian Bolliger

PhD Student
University of California, Berkeley; Energy and Resources Group

Aluma Dembo

Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of Oxford

Solomon Hsiang

Associate Professor
UC Berkeley

Shuhei Kitamura

Assistant Professor
Osaka University

Robert Pickmans

UC Berkeley