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History-Dependent Risk Attitude

  • David Dillenberger
  • Kareen Rozen

We propose a model of history-dependent risk attitude (HDRA), allowing the attitude of a decision-maker (DM) towards risk at each stage of a T-stage lottery to evolve as a function of his history of disappointments and elations in prior stages. We establish an equivalence between the existence of an HDRA representation and two documented cognitive biases. First, the DM’s risk attitudes are reinforced by prior experiences: he becomes more risk averse after suffering a disappointment and less risk averse after being elated. Second, the DM displays a primacy effect: early outcomes have the strongest effect on risk attitude. Furthermore, the DM lowers his threshold for elation after a disappointing outcome and raises it after an elating outcome; this makes disappointment more likely after elation and vice-versa, leading to statistically reversing risk attitudes. “Gray areas” in the elation-disappointment assignment are connected to optimism and pessimism in determining endogenous reference points.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 661465000000000321.

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Date of creation: 17 Nov 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:661465000000000321
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  1. Kareen Rozen, 2008. "Foundations of Intrinsic Habit Formation," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1642R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Mar 2009.
  2. Gul, Faruk, 1991. "A Theory of Disappointment Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 667-86, May.
  3. Ulrike Malmendier & Stefan Nagel, 2009. "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk-Taking?," NBER Working Papers 14813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:116:y:2001:i:1:p:55-79 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Ang, Andrew & Bekaert, Geert & Liu, Jun, 2005. "Why stocks may disappoint," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 471-508, June.
  6. Segal, Uzi, 1990. "Two-Stage Lotteries without the Reduction Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 349-77, March.
  7. Pascal St-Amour & Stephen Gordon, 2000. "A Preference Regime Model of Bull and Bear Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1019-1033, September.
  8. Machina, Mark J, 1989. "Dynamic Consistency and Non-expected Utility Models of Choice under Uncertainty," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(4), pages 1622-68, December.
  9. Thierry Post & Martijn J. van den Assem & Guido Baltussen & Richard H. Thaler, 2008. "Deal or No Deal? Decision Making under Risk in a Large-Payoff Game Show," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 38-71, March.
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