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Relativistic financial decisions: Context effects on retirement saving and investment risk preferences

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  • Ivo Vlaev
  • Nick Chater
  • Neil Stewart

Abstract

We report a study of the effects the choice set on financial decision making related to retirement savings and risky investment. The participants were presented with either a full range of choice options or a limited subset of the feasible options. The choices of saving and risk are affected by the position of each option in the range of presented options. This result demonstrated that the range of the options offered as possible saving rates and levels of investment risk influences decisions about saving and risk. The study was conducted on a sample of working people, and we controlled whether the participants can financially afford in their real life the decisions taken in the test. In addition, various measures of risk aversion did not account for the risk taken in each condition. Surprisingly, only the simplest and most direct risk preference measure was a significant predictor of the responses within a particular choice set context, although the actual choices were still very much influenced by the range. Thus, the results reported here suggest that financial judgments and choices are relative, which corroborates, in an important practical domain, previous related work with abstract gambles and hypothetical risky investments.

Suggested Citation

  • Ivo Vlaev & Nick Chater & Neil Stewart, 2007. "Relativistic financial decisions: Context effects on retirement saving and investment risk preferences," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 2, pages 292-311, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:2:y:2007:i::p:292-311
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simonson, Itamar, 1989. " Choice Based on Reasons: The Case of Attraction and Compromise Effects," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 158-174, September.
    2. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    4. Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, 2003. "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 175-179, May.
    5. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
    6. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 2002. "How Much Is Investor Autonomy Worth?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1593-1616, August.
    7. Kapteyn, A. & Teppa, F., 2002. "Subjective Measures of Risk Aversion and Portfolio Choice," Discussion Paper 2002-11, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    8. Kapteyn, A. & Teppa, F., 2002. "Subjective Measures of Risk Aversion and Portfolio Choice," Discussion Paper 2002-11, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kontek, Krzysztof, 2010. "Two Kinds of Adaptation, Two Kinds of Relativity," MPRA Paper 25169, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Ferguson, Eamonn & Flynn, Niall, 2016. "Moral relativism as a disconnect between behavioural and experienced warm glow," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 163-175.

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