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The Shape of Utility Functions and Organizational Behavior

  • Joost M. E. Pennings

    ()

    (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, Marketing/Decision Sciences Group, 1301 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, Illinois 61801)

  • Ale Smidts

    ()

    (Wageningen University, Department of Social Sciences, Marketing and Consumer Behavior Group, Hollandseweg 1, 6706 KN Wageningen, The Netherlands, and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands)

Based on measurements among 332 owner-managers, we investigate how the global shape of the utility function (i.e., S-shaped versus concave or convex over the total range of outcomes) relates to choice behavior. We find that the global shape of the utility function differs across decision makers (about one-third of the owner-managers exhibit an S-shaped utility function) and that the global shape is linked to organizational behavior (i.e., the production system employed), a result that does not change when using different methods to identify the decision maker's global shape of the utility function. The decision maker's risk attitude (risk averse or risk seeking) does not affect the choice of the production system. Whereas the degree of risk aversion, based on the local shape of the utility function, may be important in explaining owner-managers' trading behavior (Pennings and Smidts 2000), more structural organizational behavior appears to be linked to the global shape of the utility function.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.49.9.1251.16566
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Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

Volume (Year): 49 (2003)
Issue (Month): 9 (September)
Pages: 1251-1263

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Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:49:y:2003:i:9:p:1251-1263
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  1. John C. Hershey & Paul J. H. Schoemaker, 1985. "Probability Versus Certainty Equivalence Methods in Utility Measurement: Are they Equivalent?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(10), pages 1213-1231, October.
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  7. George Wu & Richard Gonzalez, 1996. "Curvature of the Probability Weighting Function," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(12), pages 1676-1690, December.
  8. John C. Hershey & Howard C. Kunreuther & Paul J. H. Schoemaker, 1982. "Sources of Bias in Assessment Procedures for Utility Functions," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(8), pages 936-954, August.
  9. Ale Smidts, 1997. "The Relationship Between Risk Attitude and Strength of Preference: A Test of Intrinsic Risk Attitude," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(3), pages 357-370, March.
  10. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
  11. Han Bleichrodt & Jose Luis Pinto & Peter P. Wakker, 2001. "Making Descriptive Use of Prospect Theory to Improve the Prescriptive Use of Expected Utility," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(11), pages 1498-1514, November.
  12. Peter Wakker & Daniel Deneffe, 1996. "Eliciting von Neumann-Morgenstern Utilities When Probabilities Are Distorted or Unknown," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(8), pages 1131-1150, August.
  13. Joost M.E. Pennings & Ale Smidts, 2000. "Assessing the Construct Validity of Risk Attitude," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(10), pages 1337-1348, October.
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