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Tests of "Fanning Out" of Indifference Curves: Results from Animal and Human Experiments


  • Kagel, John H
  • MacDonald, Don N
  • Battalio, Raymond C


In an earlier paper (Raymond C. Battalio, John H. Kagel, and Don N. Mac Donald, 1985), we reported Allais-type violations of the independence axiom of expected utility theory with rats choosing over positively valued payoffs (food rewards). This note extends this research, examining animals' choices over losses, testing for (1) standard Allais-type common ratio effect violations of expected utility theory and (2) fanning out of indifference curves for random prospects, tests of Mark J. Machina's (1982, 1987) hypothesis II (hereafter H2), over previously unexplored areas of the unit probability triangle. Results from a parallel series of experiments using human subjects choosing over real losses are also reported. For both rats and people, we find standard Allais-type violations of expected utility theory and a systematic failure of the fanning out hypothesis in the southeast corner of the unit probability triangle, in the case of losses. Thus, the fanning out hypothesis (Machina 1982, 1987) cannot provide a satisfactory explanation for behavioral deviations from expected utility theory.
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Suggested Citation

  • Kagel, John H & MacDonald, Don N & Battalio, Raymond C, 1990. "Tests of "Fanning Out" of Indifference Curves: Results from Animal and Human Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(4), pages 912-921, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:80:y:1990:i:4:p:912-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    2. William Harbaugh & Kate Krause & Lise Vesterlund, 2002. "Risk Attitudes of Children and Adults: Choices Over Small and Large Probability Gains and Losses," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 5(1), pages 53-84, June.
    3. E. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau, 2004. "Estimating Risk Attitudes in Denmark," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 201, Econometric Society.
    4. Pavlo Blavatskyy, 2004. "Axiomatization of a Preference for Most Probably Winner," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp226, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    5. Fan, Chinn-Ping, 2002. "Allais paradox in the small," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 411-421, November.
    6. Epper, Thomas & Fehr-Duda, Helga, 2017. "A Tale of Two Tails: On the Coexistence of Overweighting and Underweighting of Rare Extreme Events," Economics Working Paper Series 1705, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    7. Kontek, Krzysztof, 2015. "Fanning-Out or Fanning-In? Continuous or Discontinuous? Estimating Indifference Curves Inside the Marschak-Machina Triangle using Certainty Equivalents," MPRA Paper 63965, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Thomas Epper & Helga Fehr-Duda, 2012. "The missing link: Unifying risk taking and time discounting," ECON - Working Papers 096, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    9. M. Keith Chen & Venkat Lakshminarayanan & Laurie Santos, 2005. "The Evolution of Our Preferences: Evidence from Capuchin-Monkey Trading Behavior," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1524, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    10. Bruno S. Frey, "undated". "Knight Fever towards an Economics of Awards," IEW - Working Papers 239, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. D. A. Peel & Jie Zhang & D. Law, 2008. "The Markowitz model of utility supplemented with a small degree of probability distortion as an explanation of outcomes of Allais experiments over large and small payoffs and gambling on unlikely outc," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(1), pages 17-26.

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