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An expected utility maximizer walks into a bar..


  • Daniel Burghart


  • Paul Glimcher
  • Stephanie Lazzaro


We conducted field experiments at a bar to test whether blood alcohol concentration (BAC) correlates with violations of the generalized axiom of revealed preference (GARP) and the independence axiom. We found that individuals with BACs well above the legal limit for driving adhere to GARP and independence at rates similar to those who are sober. This finding led to the fielding of a third experiment to explore how risk preferences might vary as a function of BAC. We found gender-specific effects: Men did not exhibit variations in risk preferences across BACs. In contrast, women were more risk averse than men at low BACs but exhibited increasing tolerance towards risks as BAC increased. Based on our estimates, men and women’s risk preferences are predicted to be identical at BACs nearly twice the legal limit for driving. We discuss the implications for policy-makers. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Burghart & Paul Glimcher & Stephanie Lazzaro, 2013. "An expected utility maximizer walks into a bar..," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 215-246, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jrisku:v:46:y:2013:i:3:p:215-246 DOI: 10.1007/s11166-013-9167-7

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    Cited by:

    1. Sam Cosaert & Thomas Demuynck, 2015. "Revealed preference theory for finite choice sets," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 59(1), pages 169-200, May.
    2. Marco Castillo & David L. Dickinson & Ragan Petrie, 2017. "Sleepiness, choice consistency, and risk preferences," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 82(1), pages 41-73, January.
    3. L. Corazzini & A. Filippin & P. Vanin, 2014. "Economic Behavior under Alcohol Influence: An Experiment on Time, Risk, and Social Preferences," Working Papers wp944, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    4. Frank Sloan & Lindsey Eldred, 2015. "Do preferences of drinker-drivers differ?," International Journal of Health Economics and Management, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 241-268, June.
    5. repec:eee:jetheo:v:169:y:2017:i:c:p:546-550 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Daniel R. Burghart & Thomas Epper & Ernst Fehr, 2014. "The two faces of independence: betweenness and homotheticity," ECON - Working Papers 179, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    7. Klajdi Bregu & Cary Deck & Lindsay Ham & Salar Jahedi, 2016. "The Effects of Alcohol Use on Economic Decision Making," Working Papers 16-03, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    8. repec:col:000180:015900 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Brocas, Isabelle & Carrillo, Juan D & Combs, T. Dalton & Kodaverdian, Niree, 2015. "Consistency in Simple vs. Complex Choices over the Life Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 10457, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Drichoutis, Andreas C. & Nayga, Rodolfo, 2017. "Economic rationality under cognitive load," MPRA Paper 81111, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Jan Heufer & Paul van Bruggen, 2016. "Afriat in the Lab," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-095/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    12. Yiqun Chen & Frank Sloan, 2014. "Subjective Beliefs, Deterrence, and the Propensity to Drive While Intoxicated," NBER Working Papers 20680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Rodolfo Garcia Sierra & Alvaro Zerda Sarmiento, 2016. "Hydropower Megaprojects in Colombia and the Influence of Local Communities: A View from Prospect Theory to Decision Making Process based on Expert Judgment used in Large Organizations," International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, Econjournals, vol. 6(3), pages 408-420.

    More about this item


    Rationality; Expected utility theory; Risk aversion; Field experiment; Alcohol; D01; D81; C93;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments


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