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The Affect Heuristic and the Attractiveness of Simple Gambles


  • Ian Bateman

    (Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment, University of East Anglia)

  • Sam Dent

    (Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment, University of East Anglia)

  • Ellen Peters

    (Decision Research, Eugene, Oregon)

  • Paul Slovic

    (Department of Psychology, University of Oregon)

  • Chris Starmer

    (CeDEx, University of Nottingham)


Prior studies have observed that the attractiveness of playing a simple gamble (7/36 to win $9; otherwise win nothing) is greatly enhanced by introducing a small loss (7/36 win $9; otherwise lose 5¢). The present studies tested and confirmed an explanation of this finding based on the concept of evaluability and the affect heuristic. Evaluators of the “noloss” gamble lack a precise feeling for how good $9 is, hence give it little weight in their judgment. In the second gamble, comparison with the small loss makes $9 “come alive with feeling” and become weighted in the judgment, thus increasing the attractiveness of the gamble. These results demonstrate the importance of contextual factors in determining affect and preference for simple risk-taking opportunities. They show that the meaning, utility, and weighting of even a very familiar monetary outcome such as $9 is not fixed, but depends greatly on these contextual factors.

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Bateman & Sam Dent & Ellen Peters & Paul Slovic & Chris Starmer, 2006. "The Affect Heuristic and the Attractiveness of Simple Gambles," Discussion Papers 2006-18, The Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, School of Economics, University of Nottingham.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdx:dpaper:2006-18

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    Cited by:

    1. Varsha Singh & Azizuddin Khan, 2009. "Heterogeneity in choices on Iowa Gambling Task: preference for infrequent–high magnitude punishment," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 8(1), pages 43-57, June.

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    affect heuristic; preference construction; evaluability; gambles;

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