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An examination of ambiguity aversion: Are two heads better than one?


  • L. Robin Keller
  • Rakesh K. Sarin
  • Jayavel Sounderpandian


Ambiguity aversion has been widely observed in individuals' judgments. Using scenarios that are typical in decision analysis, we investigate ambiguity aversion for pairs of individuals. We examine risky and cautious shifts from individuals' original judgments to their judgments when they are paired up in dyads. In our experiment the participants were first asked to specify individually their willingness-to-pay for six monetary gambles. They were then paired at random into dyads, and were asked to specify their willingness-to-pay amount for the same gambles. The dyad's willingness-to-pay amount was to be shared equally by the two individuals. Of the six gambles in our experiment, one involved no ambiguity and the remaining five involved different degrees of ambiguity. We found that dyads exhibited risk aversion as well as ambiguity aversion. The majority of the dyads exhibited a cautious shift in the face of ambiguity, stating a smaller willingness-to-pay than the two individuals' average. Our study thus confirms the persistence of ambiguity aversion in a group setting and demonstrates the predominance of cautious shifts for dyads.

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  • L. Robin Keller & Rakesh K. Sarin & Jayavel Sounderpandian, 2007. "An examination of ambiguity aversion: Are two heads better than one?," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 2, pages 390-397, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:2:y:2007:i::p:390-397

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rakesh K. Sarin & Martin Weber, 1993. "Effects of Ambiguity in Market Experiments," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 39(5), pages 602-615, May.
    2. Shapira, Zur, 1993. "Ambiguity and Risk Taking in Organizations," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 89-94, August.
    3. Craig R. Fox & Amos Tversky, 1995. "Ambiguity Aversion and Comparative Ignorance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 585-603.
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    5. Chow, Clare Chua & Sarin, Rakesh K, 2001. "Comparative Ignorance and the Ellsberg Paradox," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 22(2), pages 129-139, March.
    6. Kunreuther, Howard & Meszaros, Jacqueline & Hogarth, Robin M. & Spranca, Mark, 1995. "Ambiguity and underwriter decision processes," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 337-352, May.
    7. Camerer, Colin & Weber, Martin, 1992. "Recent Developments in Modeling Preferences: Uncertainty and Ambiguity," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 325-370, October.
    8. Einhorn, Hillel J & Hogarth, Robin M, 1986. "Decision Making under Ambiguity," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 225-250, October.
    9. Joanna Ho & L. Keller & Pamela Keltyka, 2005. "How Do Information Ambiguity and Timing of Contextual Information Affect Managers’ Goal Congruence in Making Investment Decisions in Good Times vs. Bad Times?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 163-186, September.
    10. Hogarth, Robin M & Kunreuther, Howard, 1989. "Risk, Ambiguity, and Insurance," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 5-35, April.
    11. Blinder, Alan S & Morgan, John, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better than One? Monetary Policy by Committee," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(5), pages 789-811, October.
    12. Heath, Chip & Tversky, Amos, 1991. "Preference and Belief: Ambiguity and Competence in Choice under Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 5-28, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. M. Vittoria Levati & Stefan Napel & Ivan Soraperra, 2017. "Collective Choices Under Ambiguity," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 26(1), pages 133-149, January.
    2. Dudley Cooke & Sara le Roux, 2016. "Strategic Ambiguity and Decision-making: An Experimental Study," Discussion Papers 1605, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
    3. Andreas Friedl & Patrick Ring & Ulrich Schmidt, 2017. "Gender differences in ambiguity aversion under different outcome correlation structures," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 82(2), pages 211-219, February.
    4. Daniela Di Cagno & Emanuela Sciubba & Marco Spallone, 2012. "Choosing a gambling partner: testing a model of mutual insurance in the lab," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 72(4), pages 537-571, April.
    5. Konstantinos Georgalos & Enrica Carbone & Gerardo Infante, 2016. "Individual vs. Group Decision Making: an Experiment on Dynamic Choice under Risk and Ambiguity," Working Papers 138739716, Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department.


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