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Reversal of Risky Choice in a Good versus a Bad World

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  • Einav Hart
  • Yaakov Kareev
  • Judith Avrahami
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    Abstract

    In many situations one has to choose between risky alternatives, knowing only one's past experience with those alternatives. Such decisions can be made in more – or less – benevolent settings or 'worlds'. In a 'good world', high payoffs are more frequent than low payoffs, and vice versa in a 'bad world'. In two studies, we explored whether the world influences choice behavior: Whether people behave differently in a 'good' versus a 'bad' world. Subjects made repeated, incentivized choices between two gambles, one riskier than the other, neither offering a sure amount. The gambles were held equivalent in terms of their expected value, differing only in variance. Worlds were manipulated both between- and within-subject: In Study 1, each subject experienced one world – good, bad or mediocre; in Study 2, each subject experienced both a good and a bad world. We examine the aggregate pattern of behavior (average choice frequencies), and the dynamics of behavior across time. We observed significant differences in the aggregate pattern: In a good world, subjects tended to choose the riskier alternative, and vice versa in a bad world. The pattern of the dynamics, i.e., the transitions from round to round, were best explained by a reaction to the counterfactual reward: When the unchosen alternative yielded a better payoff, the tendency to subsequently choose it was higher. We compared these two patterns to the predictions of three types of models: Reinforcement learning, regret-based and disappointment-based models. Behavior was in line only with the predictions of regret-based models.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by The Center for the Study of Rationality, Hebrew University, Jerusalem in its series Discussion Paper Series with number dp619.

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    Length: 27 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2012
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:huj:dispap:dp619

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    References

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    1. Brit Grosskopf & Ido Erev & Eldad Yechiam, 2006. "Foregone with the Wind: Indirect Payoff Information and its Implications for Choice," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 34(2), pages 285-302, 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. Richard H. Thaler & Eric J. Johnson, 1990. "Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(6), pages 643-660, June.
    4. Colin Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho, 1999. "Experience-weighted Attraction Learning in Normal Form Games," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 827-874, July.
    5. Adrian R. Camilleri & Ben R. Newell, 2009. "The role of representation in experience-based choice," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4(7), pages 518-529, December.
    6. Cheung, Yin-Wong & Friedman, Daniel, 1998. "A comparison of learning and replicator dynamics using experimental data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 263-280, April.
    7. Zeelenberg, Marcel & Pieters, Rik, 2004. "Consequences of regret aversion in real life: The case of the Dutch postcode lottery," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 93(2), pages 155-168, March.
    8. Roth, Alvin E. & Erev, Ido, 1995. "Learning in extensive-form games: Experimental data and simple dynamic models in the intermediate term," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 164-212.
    9. Judith Avrahami & Werner Güth & Yaakov Kareev, 2005. "Games of Competition in a Stochastic Environment," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 59(4), pages 255-294, December.
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