We review the experimental evidence on risk aversion in controlled laboratory settings. We review the strengths and weaknesses of alternative elicitation procedures, the strengths and weaknesses of alternative estimation procedures, and finally the effect of controlling for risk attitudes on inferences in experiments.
We review the use of behavior from television game shows to infer risk attitudes. These shows provide evidence when contestants are making decisions over very large…
We review the use of behavior from television game shows to infer risk attitudes. These shows provide evidence when contestants are making decisions over very large stakes, and in a replicated, structured way. Inferences are generally confounded by the subjective assessment of skill in some games, and the dynamic nature of the task in most games. We consider the game shows Card Sharks, Jeopardy!, Lingo, and finally Deal Or No Deal. We provide a detailed case study of the analyses of Deal Or No Deal, since it is suitable for inference about risk attitudes and has attracted considerable attention.
We design experiments to jointly elicit risk and time preferences for the adult Danish population. The experimental procedures build on laboratory experiments that have…
We design experiments to jointly elicit risk and time preferences for the adult Danish population. The experimental procedures build on laboratory experiments that have used traditional subject pools. The field experiments utilize field sampling designs that we developed, and procedures that were chosen to be relatively transparent in the field with non-standard subject pools. Our overall design was also intended to be a general template for such field experiments in other countries. We examine the characterization of risk over a wider domain for each subject than previous experiments, allowing more precise estimates of risk attitudes. We also examine individual discount rates over six time horizons, as the first stage in a panel experiment in which we revisit subjects to test consistency and stability of responses over time. Risk and time preferences are heterogeneous, varying by observable individual characteristics. On a methodological level, we implement a refinement of existing procedures which elicits much more precise estimates, and also mitigates framing effects.
Field experiments have raised important issues of interpretation of bargaining behavior. There is evidence that bargaining behavior appears to vary across groups of…
Field experiments have raised important issues of interpretation of bargaining behavior. There is evidence that bargaining behavior appears to vary across groups of populations, such as nationality, ethnicity and sex. Differences have been observed with respect to initial behavior and with respect to the adjustment pattern over time. Often, such behavioral differences are referred to as cultural, although the delineation of the cultural group has been confined to one or other observable characteristic in isolation. We show that this way of characterizing cultural differences is overly simplistic: at best, it leads to unreliable claims; at worst, it leads to erroneous conclusions. We reconsider the evidence provided by previous experiments using ultimatum game rules, and undertake new experiments that expand the controls for demographics. The lesson from our demonstration is that the task of designing experiments for the field offers many challenges if one wants to define and control for cultural impacts, but that field experiments also offer potential for providing new insights into these issues.
The purpose of this paper is to suggest that a fundamental cause of market booms and busts is that investor risk attitudes change during market booms. Specifically, the…
The purpose of this paper is to suggest that a fundamental cause of market booms and busts is that investor risk attitudes change during market booms. Specifically, the authors propose that an investor’s risk aversion falls as (s)he attempts to “keep up with the Joneses.” This paper studies changing risk attitudes induced by social interactions, and shows that risk-seeking behavior that is initially successful may induce copycat behavior and lead individuals in the same peer group to reduce their degree of risk aversion to attempt to obtain similar rewards, a phenomenon we call “Gain attraction in the presence of social interactions.”
The authors propose a new theoretical model that incorporates the social interaction term into the value function of prospect theory. The modified value function empowers the standard prospect theory by introducing the idea that people often compare themselves to others and then compare their gains to the gains of others. The model predicts that, if people exhibit some degree of envy, they will treat the observed utility achieved by others as destination points and will reposition themselves to the new reference points, and at that point their willingness to accept risk dramatically increases.
The theoretical model is tested empirically against experimental data and survey data. Consistent with the theoretical prediction, the experimental results suggest that, after subjects observed the behavior of the leading investor in the controlled laboratory condition, there was a significant increase in risk-taking behavior. The survey results further confirm that envy is an emotional force behind the dissatisfaction and disappointment among investors when they miss available opportunities that others were able to take advantage of.
This study provides evidence that investment decisions are not made in a social vacuum by isolated individuals, but rather in social settings in which individuals are influenced by the actions and outcomes of their peers. The study also opens up a new research avenue that the reduction in risk aversion induced by peer effects may be an important element explaining how greed is transmitted across the economy during times of financial boom, thus helping to fuel the flames of financial crises.