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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 786969000000000066.

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Date of creation: 20 Mar 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:786969000000000066
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  1. 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.
  2. Kareen Rozen, 2008. "Foundations of Intrinsic Habit Formation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002062, David K. Levine.
  3. 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.
  4. Caplin, Andrew & Leahy, John, 1997. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," Working Papers 97-37, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  5. Segal, Uzi, 1990. "Two-Stage Lotteries without the Reduction Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(2), pages 349-77, March.
  6. Ulrike Malmendier & Stefan Nagel, 2011. "Depression Babies: Do Macroeconomic Experiences Affect Risk Taking?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 373-416.
  7. Ang, Andrew & Bekaert, Geert & Liu, Jun, 2005. "Why stocks may disappoint," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 471-508, June.
  8. 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.
  9. Gul, Faruk, 1991. "A Theory of Disappointment Aversion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(3), pages 667-86, May.
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