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Perceptions of Risk: an Experimental Approach using Internet Questionnaires

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  • Frank A Cowell
  • Guillermo Cruces

Abstract

Building on previous studies on perceptions of inequality, welfare and risk we investigate the structure of individuals' rankings of uncertain prospects in terms of risk and their relationship to individual preferences. We examine three interlinked propositions that are fundamental to the standard economic approach to risk: (i) that rankings by risk are simply the reverse of ranking by preference over distributions with a given mean; (ii) that risk-rankings respect the principle of mean-preserving spreads; (iii) that risk-rankings are independent of whether the individual is personally involved in the gains/losses associated with the uncertain prospects. To do this we use a set of questionnaires implemented through the Virtual Laboratory, a novel experimental setting for the study of normative issues in experimental economics. The results from the questionnaires provide an evaluation of the similitude between individual perceptions of risk and theoretical axioms. They also help identify the individual characteristics that might affect such perceptions.

Suggested Citation

  • Frank A Cowell & Guillermo Cruces, 2003. "Perceptions of Risk: an Experimental Approach using Internet Questionnaires," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 70, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stidar:70
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Amiel, Yoram & Cowell, Frank, 2001. "Risk and inequality perceptions," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2058, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Amiel,Yoram & Cowell,Frank, 1999. "Thinking about Inequality," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521466967, December.
    3. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1973. "Some further results on the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 188-204, April.
    4. Amiel, Yoram & Cowell, Frank, 2000. "Attitudes towards risk and inequality : a questionnaire-experimental approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2105, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Gaertner, Wulf & Jungeilges, Jochen, 1999. "Evaluation via extended orderings: empirical findings from west and east," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6583, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    7. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1970. "Increasing risk: I. A definition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 225-243, September.
    8. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434-434.
    9. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1971. "Increasing risk II: Its economic consequences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 66-84, March.
    10. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
    11. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; risk; experiment; transfer principle; mean-preserving spread.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C13 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Estimation: General
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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