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Narrow Bracketing and Dominated Choices


  • Matthew Rabin
  • Georg Weizsacker


We show that any decision maker who "narrowly brackets" (evaluates decisions separately) and does not have constant-absolute-risk-averse preferences will make a first-order stochastically dominated combined choice in some simple pair of independent binary decisions. We also characterize the preference-contingent monetary cost from this mistake. Empirically, in a real-stakes laboratory experiment that replicates Tversky and Kahneman's (1981) experiment, 28 percent of participants choose dominated combinations. In a representative survey eliciting hypothetical large-stakes choices, higher proportions do so. Violation rates vary little with personal characteristics. Average preferences are prospect-theoretic, with an estimated 89 percent of people bracketing narrowly. (JEL D12, D81)

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Rabin & Georg Weizsacker, 2009. "Narrow Bracketing and Dominated Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1508-1543, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:99:y:2009:i:4:p:1508-43 Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.4.1508

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    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty


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