IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cdl/ucsbec/qt7g63k28w.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

When Optimal Choices Feel Wrong: A Laboratory Study of Bayesian Updating, Complexity, and Affect

Author

Listed:
  • Charness, Gary
  • Levin, Dan

Abstract

We examine decision-making under risk and uncertainty in a laboratory experiment. The heart of our design examines how one’s propensity to use Bayes’ rule is affected by whether this rule is aligned with reinforcement or clashes with it. In some cases, we create environments where Bayesian updating after a successful outcome should lead a decision-maker to make a change, while no change should be made after observing an unsuccessful outcome. We observe striking patterns: When payoff reinforcement and Bayesian updating are aligned, nearly all people respond as expected. However, when these forces clash, around 50% of all decisions are inconsistent with Bayesian updating. While people tend to make costly initial choices that eliminate complexity in a subsequent decision, we find that complexity alone cannot explain our results. Finally, when a draw provides only information (and no payment), switching errors occur much less frequently, suggesting that the ‘emotional reinforcement’ (affect) induced by payments is a critical factor in deviations from Bayesian updating. There is considerable behavioral heterogeneity; we identify different types in the population and find that people who make ‘switching errors’ are more likely to have cross-period ‘reinforcement’ tendencies.

Suggested Citation

  • Charness, Gary & Levin, Dan, 2003. "When Optimal Choices Feel Wrong: A Laboratory Study of Bayesian Updating, Complexity, and Affect," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt7g63k28w, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt7g63k28w
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/7g63k28w.pdf;origin=repeccitec
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Roth, Alvin E. & Erev, Ido, 1995. "Learning in extensive-form games: Experimental data and simple dynamic models in the intermediate term," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 164-212.
    2. Erev, Ido & Roth, Alvin E, 1998. "Predicting How People Play Games: Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Games with Unique, Mixed Strategy Equilibria," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 848-881, September.
    3. Grether, David M., 1992. "Testing bayes rule and the representativeness heuristic: Some experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 31-57, January.
    4. Itzhak Gilboa & David Schmeidler, 1995. "Case-Based Decision Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 605-639.
    5. David M. Grether, 1980. "Bayes Rule as a Descriptive Model: The Representativeness Heuristic," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 95(3), pages 537-557.
    6. Gilboa,Itzhak & Schmeidler,David, 2001. "A Theory of Case-Based Decisions," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521802345, December.
    7. Camerer, Colin & Weber, Martin, 1992. "Recent Developments in Modeling Preferences: Uncertainty and Ambiguity," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 325-370, October.
    8. Ouwersloot, Hans & Nijkamp, Peter & Rietveld, Piet, 1998. "Errors in probability updating behaviour : Measurement and impact analysis," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 19(5), pages 535-563, October.
    9. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. "Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
    10. Camerer, Colin & Ho, Teck-Hua, 1997. "Experience-Weighted Attraction Learning in Games: A Unifying Approach," Working Papers 1003, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
    11. Zizzo, Daniel John & Stolarz-Fantino, Stephanie & Wen, Julie & Fantino, Edmund, 2000. "A violation of the monotonicity axiom: experimental evidence on the conjunction fallacy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 263-276, March.
    12. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1998. "The Theory of Learning in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061945.
    13. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-824, December.
    14. Gary Charness & Dan Levin, 2005. "When Optimal Choices Feel Wrong: A Laboratory Study of Bayesian Updating, Complexity, and Affect," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1300-1309, September.
    15. Cheung, Yin-Wong & Friedman, Daniel, 1997. "Individual Learning in Normal Form Games: Some Laboratory Results," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 46-76, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cdl:ucsbec:qt7g63k28w. 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: (Lisa Schiff). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/educsus.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.