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Measurement-induced focusing and the magnitude of loss aversion: The difference between comparing gains to losses and losses to gains

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  • Fieke Harinck
  • Ilja Van Beest
  • Eric Van Dijk
  • Marjolijn Van Zeeland
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    Abstract

    Research has identified loss aversion as a strong and robust phenomenon, but has also revealed some moderators affecting the magnitude of its effect on decision making. In the current article, we draw attention to the fact that even the measurement of loss aversion itself may affect its magnitude by inducing a focus on either losses or gains. In three studies, we provide empirical evidence for such a measurement-induced focus. In all studies we used coin-toss gambles---in which there is a 50/50 chance to win or to lose---to assess gain/loss ratios as a measure of loss aversion. Participants either filled out the loss side or the gain side of this gain/loss ratio. The studies consistently showed that---using within- and between-subject designs and anticipated and real coin-toss gambles---the strength of loss aversion depended on the measurement format (fill-in-the-loss versus fill-in-the-gain); filling in the loss side increased loss aversion. Moreover, loss aversion was more affected by the stakes of the gamble in the fill-in-the-loss format than in the fill-in-the-gain format.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Society for Judgment and Decision Making in its journal Judgment and Decision Making.

    Volume (Year): 7 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 4 (July)
    Pages: 462-471

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    Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:7:y:2012:i:4:p:462-471

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    Keywords: loss aversion; focus; coin-toss gamble; measurement; format.;

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    1. Kliger, Doron & Levit, Boris, 2009. "Evaluation periods and asset prices: Myopic loss aversion at the financial marketplace," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 361-371, August.
    2. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
    3. Schoemaker, Paul J H, 1982. "The Expected Utility Model: Its Variants, Purposes, Evidence and Limitations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 529-63, June.
    4. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1993. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 4369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
    6. van Dijk, Eric & van Knippenberg, Daan, 1998. "Trading wine: On the endowment effect, loss aversion, and the comparability of consumer goods," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 485-495, August.
    7. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
    8. Knetsch, Jack L, 1989. "The Endowment Effect and Evidence of Nonreversible Indifference Curves," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1277-84, December.
    9. Arkes, Hal R. & Blumer, Catherine, 1985. "The psychology of sunk cost," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 124-140, February.
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