Most theoretical models of environmental problems assume that decisions are made at the individual level. Many times, however, the decision making unit is, in the broadest sense, a group – a country, legislature, board of directors or group of stakeholders – rather than an individual. Such a group can use one of several mechanisms to make its decision. For example, the members can discuss and then vote on what to do; they can vote anonymously and without effective prior communication, particularly in large groups (like countries); or they might elect a representative who makes the decision on the group’s behalf (and who will be held accountable by the group afterwards, usually through elections). In any case, the decision-maker is not the unitary rational actor (URA) that most basic theories assume, and there are explicit and implicit social interactions between the group members that affect the group decision. Despite the pervasiveness of groups as decision-making units in the real world, research by economists and political scientists on whether group decisions differ systematically from decisions made by individuals has been sparse. There are several reasons, however, why such differences could occur: institutional, mathematical, informational and behavioral reasons.
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