IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A Computational Theory of Exchange: Willingness to pay, willingness to accept and the endowment effect


  • Lunn, Pete
  • Lunn, Mary


We present a theory of exchange that provides an alternative explanation for the endowment effect. Unlike standard neoclassical theories and Prospect Theory, our approach is not based on preference structure, but on adaptive responses to the problem of exchange when value is uncertain. We combine assumptions from perceptual and economic theory into a highly generalised model. Agents who maximise surplus but perceive uncertainty in the value of goods, set willingness to accept (WTA) above willingness to pay (WTP). The disparity increases with the perceived uncertainty of value. We show also how feedback over repeated exchanges may have heuristic value in learning to set optimal WTA and WTP. Our model receives some support from empirical studies of exchange.

Suggested Citation

  • Lunn, Pete & Lunn, Mary, 2009. "A Computational Theory of Exchange: Willingness to pay, willingness to accept and the endowment effect," Papers WP327, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:esr:wpaper:wp327

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


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

    Cited by:

    1. Lunn, Pete & Duffy, David, 2010. "The Euro Through the Looking-Glass: Perceived Inflation Following the 2002 Currency Changeover," Papers WP338, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

    More about this item


    exchange/uncertainty/willingness to accept/willingness to pay;

    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:esr:wpaper:wp327. 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: (Sarah Burns). 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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.