IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Prospect theory in a dynamic game: Theory and evidence from online pay-per-bid auctions


  • Brünner, Tobias
  • Reiner, Jochen
  • Natter, Martin
  • Skiera, Bernd


Abundant evidence exists that expected utility theory does not adequately describe decision making under risk. Although prospect theory is a popular alternative, it is rarely applied in strategic situations in which risk arises through individual interactions. This study fills this research gap by incorporating prospect theory preferences into a dynamic game theoretic model. Using a large field data set from multiple online pay-per-bid auction sites, the authors empirically show that their proposed model with prospect theory preferences makes a better out-of-sample prediction than a corresponding expected utility model. Prospect theory also provides a unified explanation for two behavioral anomalies: average auctioneer revenues above current retail prices and the sunk cost fallacy. The empirical results indicate that bidders are loss averse and overweight small probabilities, such that the expected revenue of the auction exceeds the current retail price by 25.46%. The authors illustrate and empirically confirm a managerial implication for how an auctioneer can increase revenue by changing the details of the auction design.

Suggested Citation

  • Brünner, Tobias & Reiner, Jochen & Natter, Martin & Skiera, Bernd, 2019. "Prospect theory in a dynamic game: Theory and evidence from online pay-per-bid auctions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 215-234.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:164:y:2019:i:c:p:215-234
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2019.05.032

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    More about this item


    Internet auction; Prospect theory; Dynamic game; Pricing; Penny auction;

    JEL classification:

    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions
    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:164:y:2019:i:c:p:215-234. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.