IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Random incentive systems in a dynamic choice experiment

  • Guido Baltussen
  • G. Post
  • Martijn Assem


  • Peter Wakker

Experiments frequently use a random incentive system (RIS), where only tasks that are randomly selected at the end of the experiment are for real. The most common type pays every subject one out of her multiple tasks (within-subjects randomization). Recently, another type has become popular, where a subset of subjects is randomly selected, and only these subjects receive one real payment (between-subjects randomization). In earlier tests with simple, static tasks, RISs performed well. The present study investigates RISs in a more complex, dynamic choice experiment. We find that between-subjects randomization reduces risk aversion. While within-subjects randomization delivers unbiased measurements of risk aversion, it does not eliminate carry-over effects from previous tasks. Both types generate an increase in subjects’ error rates. These results suggest that caution is warranted when applying RISs to more complex and dynamic tasks. Copyright The Author(s) 2012

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Springer & Economic Science Association in its journal Experimental Economics.

Volume (Year): 15 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 418-443

in new window

Handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:15:y:2012:i:3:p:418-443
DOI: 10.1007/s10683-011-9306-4
Contact details of provider: Web page:

Web page:;jsessionid=3F1701A870A8B0D3BDB91479792ADFA5

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Elisabet Rutstrom & Glenn Harrison & Morten Lau, 2004. "Estimating risk attitudes in denmark: A field experiment," Artefactual Field Experiments 00059, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Eric J. Johnson & David A. Schkade, 1989. "Bias in Utility Assessments: Further Evidence and Explanations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(4), pages 406-424, April.
  3. Bettinger, Eric & Slonim, Robert, 2007. "Patience among children," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 343-363, February.
  4. Stahl, Dale O. & Haruvy, Ernan, 2006. "Other-regarding preferences: Egalitarian warm glow, empathy, and group size," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 20-41, September.
  5. Dan Ariely & George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 2005. "Tom Sawyer and the construction of value," Working Papers 05-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  6. Camerer, Colin F & Ho, Teck-Hua, 1994. "Violations of the Betweenness Axiom and Nonlinearity in Probability," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 167-96, March.
  7. Martijn J. van den Assem & Dennie van Dolder & Richard H. Thaler, 2012. "Split or Steal? Cooperative Behavior When the Stakes Are Large," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(1), pages 2-20, January.
  8. Sefton, Martin, 1992. "Incentives in simple bargaining games," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 263-276, June.
  9. Schunk, Daniel & Betsch, Cornelia, 2006. "Explaining heterogeneity in utility functions by individual differences in decision modes," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 386-401, June.
  10. Green, Donald & Jacowitz, Karen E. & Kahneman, Daniel & McFadden, Daniel, 1998. "Referendum contingent valuation, anchoring, and willingness to pay for public goods," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 85-116, June.
  11. Carlin, Paul S., 1992. "Violations of the reduction and independence axioms in Allais-type and common-ratio effect experiments," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 213-235, October.
  12. Camerer, Colin F, 1989. "An Experimental Test of Several Generalized Utility Theories," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 61-104, April.
  13. John Hey & Jinkwon Lee, 2005. "Do subjects remember the past?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(1), pages 9-18.
  14. Hey, John D., 1995. "Experimental investigations of errors in decision making under risk," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(3-4), pages 633-640, April.
  15. Olivier Armantier, 2006. "Do Wealth Differences Affect Fairness Considerations?," CIRANO Working Papers 2006s-13, CIRANO.
  16. Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Inference by Believers in the Law of Small Numbers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 775-816.
  17. Myagkov, Mikhail & Plott, Charles R, 1997. "Exchange Economies and Loss Exposure: Experiments Exploring Prospect Theory and Competitive Equilibria in Market Environments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 801-28, December.
  18. Hey, John D & Orme, Chris, 1994. "Investigating Generalizations of Expected Utility Theory Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1291-1326, November.
  19. Robin Cubitt & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 1998. "On the Validity of the Random Lottery Incentive System," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 115-131, September.
  20. Cary Deck & Jungmin Lee & Javier Reyes, 2008. "Risk attitudes in large stake gambles: evidence from a game show," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(1), pages 41-52.
  21. Thierry Post & Martijn J. van den Assem & Guido Baltussen & Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Deal or No Deal? Decision Making under Risk in a Large-Payoff Game Show," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 38-71, March.
  22. Cox, James C & Epstein, Seth, 1989. "Preference Reversals without the Independence Axiom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 408-26, June.
  23. Pavlo Blavatskyy & Ganna Pogrebna, 2008. "Risk Aversion when Gains are Likely and Unlikely: Evidence from a Natural Experiment with Large Stakes," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 64(2), pages 395-420, March.
  24. Peter Moffatt & Simon Peters, 2001. "Testing for the Presence of a Tremble in Economic Experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 221-228, December.
  25. Bolle, Friedel, 1990. "High reward experiments without high expenditure for the experimenter?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 157-167, June.
  26. Peter Moffatt, 2005. "Stochastic Choice and the Allocation of Cognitive Effort," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 369-388, December.
  27. R. N. Rosett, 1971. "Weak Experimental Verification of the Expected Utility Hypothesis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(4), pages 481-492.
  28. Smith, Vernon L, 1976. "Experimental Economics: Induced Value Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 274-79, May.
  29. John Hey & Jinkwon Lee, 2005. "Do Subjects Separate (or Are They Sophisticated)?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 233-265, September.
  30. Camerer, Colin F & Hogarth, Robin M, 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 7-42, December.
  31. Pavlo R. Blavatskyy & Ganna Pogrebna, 2010. "Models of stochastic choice and decision theories: why both are important for analyzing decisions," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(6), pages 963-986.
  32. Richard H. Thaler & Eric J. Johnson, 1990. "Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(6), pages 643-660, June.
  33. Chris Starmer & Elke Renner & Henrik Orzen & Simon Gachter, 2007. "Are experimental economists prone to framing effects? A natural field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00331, The Field Experiments Website.
  34. Wilcox, Nathaniel T, 1993. "Lottery Choice: Incentives, Complexity and Decision Time," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(421), pages 1397-1417, November.
  35. Holt, Charles A, 1986. "Preference Reversals and the Independence Axiom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 508-15, June.
  36. 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 623-38, September.
  37. Langer, Thomas & Weber, Martin, 2008. "Does commitment or feedback influence myopic loss aversion?: An experimental analysis," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(3-4), pages 810-819, September.
  38. Reilly, Robert J, 1982. "Preference Reversal: Further Evidence and Some Suggested Modifications in Experimental Design," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 576-84, June.
  39. Wakker,Peter P., 2010. "Prospect Theory," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521748681, November.
  40. Cubitt, Robin P & Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1998. "Dynamic Choice and the Common Ratio Effect: An Experimental Investigation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1362-80, September.
  41. Beattie, Jane & Loomes, Graham, 1997. "The Impact of Incentives upon Risky Choice Experiments," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 155-68, March.
  42. Jinkwon Lee, 2008. "The effect of the background risk in a simple chance improving decision model," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 36(1), pages 19-41, February.
  43. Chris Starmer, 2000. "Developments in Non-expected Utility Theory: The Hunt for a Descriptive Theory of Choice under Risk," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(2), pages 332-382, June.
  44. Harrison, Glenn W, 1989. "Theory and Misbehavior of First-Price Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 749-62, September.
  45. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-55, December.
  46. Robert Brooks & Robert Faff & Daniel Mulino & Richard Scheelings, 2009. "Deal or No Deal, That is the Question: The Impact of Increasing Stakes and Framing Effects on Decision-Making under Risk," International Review of Finance, International Review of Finance Ltd., vol. 9(1-2), pages 27-50.
  47. Harless, David W & Camerer, Colin F, 1994. "The Predictive Utility of Generalized Expected Utility Theories," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1251-89, November.
  48. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2003. "Cluster-Sample Methods in Applied Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 133-138, May.
  49. Harrison, Glenn W, 1994. "Expected Utility Theory and the Experimentalists," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 223-53.
  50. Starmer, Chris & Sugden, Robert, 1991. "Does the Random-Lottery Incentive System Elicit True Preferences? An Experimental Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 971-78, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:expeco:v:15:y:2012:i:3:p:418-443. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

or (Rebekah McClure)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.