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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. 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.
  2. Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Risk Aversion and Expected Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7667, David K. Levine.
  3. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Goeree, Jacob & Holt, Charles, 2000. "Quantal Response Equilibrium and Overbidding in Private-value Auctions," Working Papers 1073, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  4. Houser, Daniel & Schunk, Daniel & Winter, Joachim, 2010. "Distinguishing trust from risk: An anatomy of the investment game," Munich Reprints in Economics 19378, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  5. Dohmen, Thomas J & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2008. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," CEPR Discussion Papers 6844, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. John D Hey & Andrea Morone & Ulrich Schmidt, 2007. "Noise and Bias in Eliciting Preferences," Discussion Papers 07/04, Department of Economics, University of York.
  7. Lisa R. Anderson & Jennifer M. Mellor, 2008. "Are Risk Preferences Stable? Comparing an Experimental Measure with a Validated Survey-Based Measure," Working Papers 74, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde, 2010. "Are Risk Aversion and Impatience Related to Cognitive Ability?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(3), pages 1238-60, June.
  11. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe & Schupp, Jürgen & Wagner, Gert G., 2011. "Individual risk attitudes: Measurement, determinants, and behavioral consequences," Munich Reprints in Economics 20048, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  12. Andersson, Ola & Tyran, Jean-Robert & Wengström, Erik & Holm, Håkan J., 2013. "Risk Aversion Relates to Cognitive Ability: Fact or Fiction?," Working Paper Series 964, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  13. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin, 2006. "Performance Pay and Multi-dimensional Sorting: Productivity, Preferences and Gender," IZA Discussion Papers 2001, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Ernst Fehr, 2009. "On the economics and biology of trust," IEW - Working Papers 399, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Glaeser, Edward Ludwig & Laibson, David I. & Scheinkman, Jose A. & Soutter, Christine L., 2000. "Measuring Trust," Scholarly Articles 4481497, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  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. Bohnet, Iris & Zeckhauser, Richard, 2003. "Trust, Risk and Betrayal," Working Paper Series rwp03-041, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  22. 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.
  23. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  24. 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.
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