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Neoclassical theory versus prospect theory: Evidence from the marketplace

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  • John List

Abstract

Neoclassical theory postulates that preferences between two goods are independent of the consumer's current entitlements. Several experimental studies have recently provided strong evidence that this basic independence assumption, which is used in most theoretical and applied economic models to assess the operation of markets, is rarely appropriate. These results, which clearly contradict closely held economic doctrines, have led some influential commentators to call for an entirely new economic paradigm to displace conventional neoclassical theory e.g., prospect theory, which invokes psychological effects. This paper pits neoclassical theory against prospect theory by investigating three clean tests of the competing hypotheses. In all three cases, the data, which are drawn from nearly 500 subjects actively participating in a well-functioning marketplace, suggest that prospect theory adequately organizes behavior among inexperienced consumers, whereas consumers with intense market experience behave largely in accordance with neoclassical predictions. The pattern of results indicates that learning primarily occurs on the sell side of the market: agents with intense market experience are more willing to part with their entitlements than lesser-experienced agents.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Framed Field Experiments with number 00174.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:feb:framed:00174

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  1. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
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  4. John A. List, 2003. "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 41-71, February.
  5. Camerer, Colin F & Hogarth, Robin M, 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 7-42, December.
  6. John A. List, 2001. "Do Explicit Warnings Eliminate the Hypothetical Bias in Elicitation Procedures? Evidence from Field Auctions for Sportscards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1498-1507, December.
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  9. Munro, Alistair & Sugden, Robert, 2003. "On the theory of reference-dependent preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 407-428, April.
  10. Loewenstein, George, 1999. "Experimental Economics from the Vantage-Point of Behavioural Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(453), pages F23-34, February.
  11. Brookshire, David S & Coursey, Don L, 1987. "Measuring the Value of a Public Good: An Empirical Comparison of Elicitation Procedures," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 554-66, September.
  12. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
  13. Knetsch, Jack L & Sinden, J A, 1987. "The Persistence of Evaluation Disparities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 691-95, August.
  14. Coursey, Don L & Hovis, John L & Schulze, William D, 1987. "The Disparity between Willingness to Accept and Willingness to Pay Measures of Value," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 679-90, August.
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