Underinvestment in agriculture – a major cause of rural poverty – may be due to difficulties in detecting ‘contingency’, defined as the influence one may exert on the outcome of a decision-making situation. Recently experienced contingency may create a mismatch between perceived and actual contingency in an investment decision-making situation, leading to sub-optimal investment behaviour. To test this, we use an experiment with poor farmers in Uganda used to low levels of contingency, as many factors (e.g., the weather, pests, price fluctuations) obscure the link between farm investment and outcomes. We find that in situations in which some contingency is present, investment levels respond positively to recently experienced contingency. In situations in which no contingency is present (‘non-contingency’), investment responds negatively to recently experienced non-contingency. The findings that perceived contingency influences investment behaviour, and perceived contingency can be readily changed, may inform new behavioural policies to promote agricultural investment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106427
JournalWorld Development
Early online date12 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

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