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Measurement-induced focusing and the magnitude of loss aversion: The difference between comparing gains to losses and losses to gains


  • Fieke Harinck
  • Ilja Van Beest
  • Eric Van Dijk
  • Marjolijn Van Zeeland


Research has identified loss aversion as a strong and robust phenomenon, but has also revealed some moderators affecting the magnitude of its effect on decision making. In the current article, we draw attention to the fact that even the measurement of loss aversion itself may affect its magnitude by inducing a focus on either losses or gains. In three studies, we provide empirical evidence for such a measurement-induced focus. In all studies we used coin-toss gambles---in which there is a 50/50 chance to win or to lose---to assess gain/loss ratios as a measure of loss aversion. Participants either filled out the loss side or the gain side of this gain/loss ratio. The studies consistently showed that---using within- and between-subject designs and anticipated and real coin-toss gambles---the strength of loss aversion depended on the measurement format (fill-in-the-loss versus fill-in-the-gain); filling in the loss side increased loss aversion. Moreover, loss aversion was more affected by the stakes of the gamble in the fill-in-the-loss format than in the fill-in-the-gain format.

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  • Fieke Harinck & Ilja Van Beest & Eric Van Dijk & Marjolijn Van Zeeland, 2012. "Measurement-induced focusing and the magnitude of loss aversion: The difference between comparing gains to losses and losses to gains," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(4), pages 462-471, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:jdm:journl:v:7:y:2012:i:4:p:462-471

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 73-92.
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    6. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-1061.
    7. Kliger, Doron & Levit, Boris, 2009. "Evaluation periods and asset prices: Myopic loss aversion at the financial marketplace," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 361-371, August.
    8. Schoemaker, Paul J H, 1982. "The Expected Utility Model: Its Variants, Purposes, Evidence and Limitations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 529-563, June.
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