IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Affective Decision-Making: A Theory of Optimism-Bias




Optimism-bias is inconsistent with the independence of decision weights and payoffs found in models of choice under risk, such as expected utility theory and prospect theory. Hence, to explain the evidence suggesting that agents are optimistically biased, we propose an alternative model of risky choice, affective decision-making, where decision weights -- which we label affective or perceived risk -- are endogenized. Affective decision making (ADM) is a strategic model of choice under risk, where we posit two cognitive processes: the "rational" and the "emotional" processes. The two processes interact in a simultaneous-move intrapersonal potential game, and observed choice is the result of a pure strategy Nash equilibrium in this potential game. We show that regular ADM potential games have an odd number of locally unique pure strategy Nash equilibria, and demonstrate this finding for affective decision making in insurance markets. We prove that ADM potential games are refutable, by axiomatizing the ADM potential maximizers.

Suggested Citation

  • Anat Bracha & Donald J. Brown, 2010. "Affective Decision-Making: A Theory of Optimism-Bias," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1759, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1759

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mercè Roca & Robin Hogarth & A. Maule, 2006. "Ambiguity seeking as a result of the status quo bias," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 32(3), pages 175-194, May.
    2. Markus K. Brunnermeier & Jonathan A. Parker, 2005. "Optimal Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1092-1118, September.
    3. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1449-1475, December.
    4. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2005. "A Smooth Model of Decision Making under Ambiguity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(6), pages 1849-1892, November.
    5. Fabio Maccheroni & Massimo Marinacci & Aldo Rustichini, 2006. "Ambiguity Aversion, Robustness, and the Variational Representation of Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(6), pages 1447-1498, November.
    6. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79.
    7. Miguel A. Costa-Gomes & Georg Weizsäcker, 2008. "Stated Beliefs and Play in Normal-Form Games," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(3), pages 729-762.
    8. Malmendier, Ulrike & Tate, Geoffrey, 2008. "Who makes acquisitions? CEO overconfidence and the market's reaction," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 20-43, July.
    9. Isabelle Brocas & Juan D. Carrillo, 2008. "Theories of the Mind," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 175-180, May.
    10. Gajdos, T. & Hayashi, T. & Tallon, J.-M. & Vergnaud, J.-C., 2008. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 140(1), pages 27-65, May.
    11. David K. Levine & Drew Fudenberg, 2006. "A Dual-Self Model of Impulse Control," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1449-1476, December.
    12. Ulrike Malmendier & Geoffrey Tate, 2005. "CEO Overconfidence and Corporate Investment," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(6), pages 2661-2700, December.
    13. Klibanoff, Peter & Marinacci, Massimo & Mukerji, Sujoy, 2009. "Recursive smooth ambiguity preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(3), pages 930-976, May.
    14. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-319, June.
    15. Thaler, Richard H & Shefrin, H M, 1981. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 392-406, April.
    16. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2004. "The supply of information by a concerned expert," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 487-505, July.
    17. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    18. Heath, Chip & Tversky, Amos, 1991. "Preference and Belief: Ambiguity and Competence in Choice under Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 5-28, January.
    19. Malcolm Baker & Richard S. Ruback & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2004. "Behavioral Corporate Finance: A Survey," NBER Working Papers 10863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2004. "Addiction and Cue-Triggered Decision Processes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1558-1590, December.
    21. Leeat Yariv, 2001. "Believe and Let Believe: Axiomatic Foundations for Belief Dependent Utility Functionals," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1344, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    22. Keller, Punam Anand & Block, Lauren Goldberg, 1996. " Increasing the Persuasiveness of Fear Appeals: The Effect of Arousal and Elaboration," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 22(4), pages 448-459, March.
    23. Epstein, Larry G. & Marinacci, Massimo & Seo, Kyoungwon, 2007. "Coarse contingencies and ambiguity," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(4), December.
    24. Howe, Roger, 1982. "Most convex functions are smooth," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1-2), pages 37-39, January.
    25. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-587, May.
    26. Colin F. Camerer & George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 2004. "Neuroeconomics: Why Economics Needs Brains," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 555-579, October.
    27. Benhabib, Jess & Bisin, Alberto, 2005. "Modeling internal commitment mechanisms and self-control: A neuroeconomics approach to consumption-saving decisions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 460-492, August.
    28. Botond Köszegi, 2006. "Ego Utility, Overconfidence, and Task Choice," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(4), pages 673-707, June.
    29. Abraham Neyman, 1997. "Correlated Equilibrium and Potential Games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 26(2), pages 223-227.
    30. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Self-Confidence and Personal Motivation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 871-915.
    31. Monderer, Dov & Shapley, Lloyd S., 1996. "Potential Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 124-143, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Mark Schneider, 2016. "Dual Process Utility Theory: A Model of Decisions Under Risk and Over Time," Working Papers 16-23, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.
    2. Felix KUBLER & Karl SCHMEDDERS, 2010. "Life-Cycle Portfolio Choice, the Wealth Distribution and Asset Prices," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 10-21, Swiss Finance Institute.
    3. Anat Bracha & Donald J. Brown, 2013. "Affective Utilities: A Rational Theory of Optimistic Bias in Asset Markets," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1898R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Jun 2014.
    4. Au, Pak Hung, 2016. "Price reaction and disagreement over public signal," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 81-106.
    5. Xiaodong Du & Hongli Feng & David A. Hennessy, 2017. "Rationality of Choices in Subsidized Crop Insurance Markets," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 99(3), pages 732-756.
    6. Ruder, Alexander I. & Van Noy, Michelle, 2017. "Knowledge of earnings risk and major choice: Evidence from an information experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 80-90.
    7. Anat Bracha & Donald Brown, 2013. "(Ir)rational Exuberance: Optimism, Ambiguity, and Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000782, David K. Levine.
    8. Dertwinkel-Kalt, Markus & Wenzel, Tobias, 2017. "Focusing and framing of risky alternatives," DICE Discussion Papers 279, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    9. Chatterjee, Sidharta, 2011. "The Neuroeconomics of Learning and Information Processing; Applying Markov Decision Process," MPRA Paper 28883, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Paradiso, Antonio & Kumar, Saten & Margani, Patrizia, 2014. "Are Italian consumer confidence adjustments asymmetric? A macroeconomic and psychological motives approach," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 48-63.
    11. Peter Schwardmann & Joël van der Weele, 2016. "Deception and Self-Deception," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-012/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    12. repec:wsi:jdexxx:v:22:y:2017:i:03:n:s1084946717500212 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Coutts, Alexander, 2015. "Testing Models of Belief Bias: An Experiment," MPRA Paper 67507, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. : John A. Doukas & Constantinos Antoniou & Avanidhar Subrahmanyam, 2011. "Sentiment and Momentum," Working Papers wpn11-02, Warwick Business School, Finance Group.
    15. Anat Bracha & Donald J. Brown, 2013. "Keynesian Utilities: Bulls and Bears," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1891, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.

    More about this item


    Affective decision-making; Optimism-bias; ADM potential games; Demand for insurance;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1759. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Matthew Regan). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.