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What Determines the Shape of the Probability Weighting Function?

When valuing risky prospects, people typically overweight small probabilities and underweight medium and large probabilities, but there is vast heterogeneity in individual behavior. We explore the relationship between person-specific probability weights, estimated from investment decisions in a laboratory experiment, and personal characteristics. We find considerable interaction effects with gender. While women’s probability weighting is strongly and significantly susceptible to mood states, men’s is not. Moreover, we show that cheerful and optimistic people weight probabilities of investment gains more favorably than do pessimistic people. People who calculate expected payoffs are less prone to probability distortions than those who do not use a lottery’s expected value as a decision criterion. None of the factors studied impact subjects’ valuations of monetary outcomes.

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Paper provided by CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich in its series CER-ETH Economics working paper series with number 06/54.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:06-54
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  1. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  2. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1992. " Advances in Prospect Theory: Cumulative Representation of Uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 297-323, October.
  3. Lattimore, Pamela K. & Baker, Joanna R. & Witte, Ann D., 1992. "The influence of probability on risky choice: A parametric examination," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 377-400, May.
  4. Walther, Herbert, 2003. "Normal-randomness expected utility, time preference and emotional distortions," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 253-266, October.
  5. Kliger, Doron & Levy, Ori, 2003. "Mood-induced variation in risk preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 52(4), pages 573-584, December.
  6. George Wu & Richard Gonzalez, 1996. "Curvature of the Probability Weighting Function," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 42(12), pages 1676-1690, December.
  7. Nathalie Etchart-Vincent, 2004. "Is Probability Weighting Sensitive to the Magnitude of Consequences? An Experimental Investigation on Losses," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 217-235, 05.
  8. Eckel, Catherine C. & Grossman, Philip J., 2008. "Differences in the Economic Decisions of Men and Women: Experimental Evidence," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  9. Pamela K. Lattimore & Joanna R. Baker & A. Dryden Witte, 1992. "The Influence Of Probability on Risky Choice: A parametric Examination," NBER Technical Working Papers 0081, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Chris Starmer, 2000. "Developments in Non-expected Utility Theory: The Hunt for a Descriptive Theory of Choice under Risk," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(2), pages 332-382, June.
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