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Prospective Reference Theory: Toward an Explanation of the Paradoxes


  • Viscusi, W Kip


This article develops a variant of the expected utility model termed prospective reference theory. Although the standard model occurs as a limiting case, the general approach is that individuals treat stated experimental probabilities as imperfect information. This model is applied to a wide variety of aberrant phenomena, including the Allais paradox, the overweighting of low-probability events, the existence of premiums for certain elimination of risks, and the representativeness heuristic. The prospective reference theory model predicts most of the observed behavioral patterns rather than being potentially reconcilable with such phenomena. Copyright 1989 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • Viscusi, W Kip, 1989. "Prospective Reference Theory: Toward an Explanation of the Paradoxes," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 235-263, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:2:y:1989:i:3:p:235-63

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Keren, Gideon & Roelofsma, Peter, 1995. "Immediacy and Certainty in Intertemporal Choice," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 287-297, September.
    2. Vital Anderhub & Werner Güth & Uri Gneezy & Doron Sonsino, 2001. "On the Interaction of Risk and Time Preferences: An Experimental Study," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 2(3), pages 239-253, August.
    3. Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A. & Laury, Susan K., 2002. "Private costs and public benefits: unraveling the effects of altruism and noisy behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 255-276, February.
    4. 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 971-978, September.
    5. George Wu, 1999. "Anxiety and Decision Making with Delayed Resolution of Uncertainty," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 159-199, April.
    6. Butler, J S & Moffitt, Robert, 1982. "A Computationally Efficient Quadrature Procedure for the One-Factor Multinomial Probit Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(3), pages 761-764, May.
    7. Martin Ahlbrecht & Martin Weber, 1997. "An Empirical Study on Intertemporal Decision Making Under Risk," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(6), pages 813-826, June.
    8. Chew, Soo Hong & Ho, Joanna L, 1994. "Hope: An Empirical Study of Attitude toward the Timing of Uncertainty Resolution," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-288, May.
    9. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
    10. Vernon L. Smith, 1969. "Measuring Nonmonetary Utilities in Uncertain Choices: The Ellsberg Urn," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(2), pages 324-329.
    11. 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.
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