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Measuring Individual Risk Attitudes in the Lab: Task or Ask? An Empirical Comparison

  • Jan-Erik Lönnqvist
  • Markku Verkasalo
  • Gari Walkowitz
  • Philipp Christoph Wichardt

This paper compares two prominent empirical measures of individual risk attitudes - the Holt and Laury (2002) lottery-choice task and the multi-item questionnaire advocated by Dohmen, Falk, Huffman, Schupp, Sunde and Wagner (2011) - with respect to (a) their within-subject stability over time (one year) and (b) their correlation with actual risk-taking behaviour in the lab - here the amount sent in a trust game (Berg, Dickaut, McCabe, 1995). As it turns out, the measures themselves are uncorrelated (both times) and, most importantly, only the questionnaire measure exhibits test-re-test stability (p = .78), while virtually no such stability is found in the lottery-choice task. In addition, only the questionnaire measure shows the expected correlations with a Big Five personality measure and is correlated with actual risk-taking behaviour. The results suggest that the questionnaire is the more adequate measure of individual risk attitudes for the analysis of behaviour in economic (lab) experiments. Moreover, with respect to behaviour in the trust game, we find a high re-test stability of transfers (p = .70). This further supports the conjecture that trusting behaviour indeed has a component which itself is a stable individual characteristic (Glaeser, Laibson, Scheinkman and Soutter, 2000).

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 4663.

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Date of creation: 2014
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4663
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  1. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2003. "Trust, Risk and Betrayal," Working Paper Series rwp03-041, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Isaac, R Mark & James, Duncan, 2000. "Just Who Are You Calling Risk Averse?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 20(2), pages 177-87, March.
  3. Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin & Huffman David & Sunde Uwe & Schupp Jürgen & Wagner Gert, 2009. "Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants and Behavioral Consequences," ROA Research Memorandum 007, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  4. Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin & Huffman David & Sunde Uwe, 2009. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," ROA Research Memorandum 007, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
  5. Ola Andersson & Håkan J. Holm & Jean-Robert Tyran & Erik Wengström, 2013. "Risk aversion relates to cognitive ability: Fact or Fiction?," Discussion Papers 13-10, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  6. Dohmen T.J. & Falk A., 2010. "Performance pay and multi-dimensional sorting - Productivity, preferences and gender," Research Memorandum 012, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  7. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  8. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
  9. John Hey & Andrea Morone & Ulrich Schmidt, 2009. "Noise and bias in eliciting preferences," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 213-235, December.
  10. Jacob K. Goeree & Charles A. Holt & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2000. "Quantal Response Equilibrium and Overbidding in Private-Value Auctions," Virginia Economics Online Papers 345, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  11. Eckel, Catherine C. & Wilson, Rick K., 2004. "Is trust a risky decision?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 447-465, December.
  12. Ernst Fehr, 2008. "On the Economics and Biology of Trust," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 154, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  13. Nigel Nicholson & Emma Soane & Mark Fenton-O'Creevy & Paul Willman, 2005. "Personality and domain-specific risk taking," Journal of Risk Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 157-176, March.
  14. Ben-Ner, Avner & Halldorsson, Freyr, 2010. "Trusting and trustworthiness: What are they, how to measure them, and what affects them," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 64-79, February.
  15. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2012. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(2), pages 645-677.
  16. Lisa Anderson & Jennifer Mellor, 2009. "Are risk preferences stable? Comparing an experimental measure with a validated survey-based measure," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 137-160, October.
  17. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2010. "Distinguishing trust from risk: An anatomy of the investment game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 74(1-2), pages 72-81, May.
  18. Edward L. Glaeser & David I. Laibson & José A. Scheinkman & Christine L. Soutter, 2000. "Measuring Trust," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 811-846.
    • Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  19. Steffen Andersen & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2008. "Lost In State Space: Are Preferences Stable?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(3), pages 1091-1112, 08.
  20. Chetan Dave & Catherine Eckel & Cathleen Johnson & Christian Rojas, 2010. "Eliciting risk preferences: When is simple better?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 219-243, December.
  21. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2005. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects: New Data without Order Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 902-912, June.
  22. Glenn W. Harrison & Eric Johnson & Melayne M. McInnes & E. Elisabet Rutström, 2005. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(3), pages 897-901, June.
  23. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  24. Goeree, Jacob K. & Holt, Charles A. & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2003. "Risk averse behavior in generalized matching pennies games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 97-113, October.
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