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How certain is the uncertainty effect?


  • Ondřej Rydval
  • Andreas Ortmann


  • Sasha Prokosheva
  • Ralph Hertwig


We replicate three pricing tasks of Gneezy, List and Wu (2006) for which they document the so-called uncertainty effect, namely, that people value a binary lottery over non-monetary outcomes less than other people value the lottery’s worse outcome. While the authors implemented a verbal lottery description, we use a physical lottery format which makes misinterpretation of the lottery structure highly unlikely. We also provide subjects with complete information about the goods they are to value (book gift certificates and one-year deferred payments). Contrary to Gneezy et al. (2006), we observe for all three pricing tasks that subjects’ willingness to pay for the lottery is significantly higher than other subjects’ willingness to pay for the lottery’s worse outcome.
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Suggested Citation

  • Ondřej Rydval & Andreas Ortmann & Sasha Prokosheva & Ralph Hertwig, 2009. "How certain is the uncertainty effect?," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 12(4), pages 473-487, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:12:y:2009:i:4:p:473-487
    DOI: 10.1007/s10683-009-9224-x

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:feb:framed:0074 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Glenn W. Harrison & John A. List, 2004. "Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1009-1055, December.
    3. Uri Gneezy & John A. List & George Wu, 2006. "The Uncertainty Effect: When a Risky Prospect is Valued Less than its Worst Possible Outcome," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1283-1309.
    4. Steffen Anderson & Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau & Rutstrom Elisabet, 2007. "Valuation using multiple price list formats," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(6), pages 675-682.
    5. Horowitz, John K., 2006. "The Becker-DeGroot-Marschak mechanism is not necessarily incentive compatible, even for non-random goods," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 6-11, October.
    6. Glenn W Harrison & John A List & Charles Towe, 2007. "Naturally Occurring Preferences and Exogenous Laboratory Experiments: A Case Study of Risk Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(2), pages 433-458, March.
    7. Grether, David M & Plott, Charles R, 1979. "Economic Theory of Choice and the Preference Reversal Phenomenon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(4), pages 623-638, September.
    8. Harrison, Glenn W. & Rutström, E. Elisabet, 2008. "Experimental Evidence on the Existence of Hypothetical Bias in Value Elicitation Methods," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kircher, Philipp & Sandroni, Alvaro & Ludwig, Sandra, 2009. "Fairness: A Critique to the Utilitarian Approach," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 288, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
    2. George E. Newman & Daniel Mochon, 2012. "Why are lotteries valued less? Multiple tests of a direct risk-aversion mechanism," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(1), pages 19-24, January.
    3. Pavlo Blavatskyy, 2012. "Probabilistic choice and stochastic dominance," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 50(1), pages 59-83, May.
    4. Uri Benzion & Shosh Shahrabani & Tal Shavit, 2013. "Retesting The Uncertainty Effect Using Lotteries With Real Products And Money," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65, pages 175-186, May.
    5. Andreas C. Drichoutis & Rodolfo M. Nayga & Jayson L. Lusk & Panagiotis Lazaridis, 2012. "When a risky prospect is valued more than its best possible outcome," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(1), pages 1-18, January.
    6. Glenk, Klaus & Colombo, Sergio, 2013. "Modelling Outcome-Related Risk in Choice Experiments," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 57(4), December.
    7. Andreas Ortmann, 2009. ""The Way in which an Experiment is Conducted is Unbelievably Important": On the Experimentation Practices of Economists and Psychologists," CESifo Working Paper Series 2887, CESifo Group Munich.
    8. Sasha Prokosheva, 2014. "Comparing Decisions under Compound Risk and Ambiguity: The Importance of Cognitive Skills," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp525, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    9. James Andreoni & Charles Sprenger, 2011. "Uncertainty Equivalents: Testing the Limits of the Independence Axiom," NBER Working Papers 17342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Klaus Glenk & Sergio Colombo, 2013. "Modelling outcome-related risk in choice experiments," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 57(4), pages 559-578, October.
    11. Yitong Wang & Tianjun Feng & L. Keller, 2013. "A further exploration of the uncertainty effect," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 291-310, December.
    12. Chuang, Yating & Schechter, Laura, 2015. "Stability of experimental and survey measures of risk, time, and social preferences: A review and some new results," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 151-170.
    13. Uri Gneezy & John A. List & George Wu, 2006. "The Uncertainty Effect: When a Risky Prospect is Valued Less than its Worst Possible Outcome," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1283-1309.
    14. Honda, Hidehito & Ogawa, Midori & Murakoshi, Takuma & Masuda, Tomohiro & Utsumi, Ken & Park, Sora & Kimura, Atsushi & Nei, Daisuke & Wada, Yuji, 2015. "Effect of visual aids and individual differences of cognitive traits in judgments on food safety," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 33-40.
    15. Pavlo R. Blavatskyy, 2011. "A Model of Probabilistic Choice Satisfying First-Order Stochastic Dominance," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(3), pages 542-548, March.
    16. Jonathan E. Alevy & Craig E. Landry & John A. List, 2015. "Field Experiments On The Anchoring Of Economic Valuations," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 53(3), pages 1522-1538, July.

    More about this item


    Decision making under risk; Framing; Experiments; Task ambiguity; C81; C91; C93; D83;

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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