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The role of intuition and reasoning in driving aversion to risk and ambiguity

  • Jeffrey V. Butler
  • Luigi Guiso
  • Tullio Jappelli

Using information on a large sample of retail investors and experimental data we find that risk aversion and risk ambiguity are correlated: individuals who dislike risk also dislike ambiguity. We show that what links these traits is the way people handle decisions. Intuitive thinkers are less averse to risk and less averse to ambiguity than individuals who base their decisions on effortful reasoning. We confirm this finding in a series of experiments. One interpretation of our results is that the high-speed of intuitive thinking puts intuitive thinkers at a comparative advantage in situations involving high risk and ambiguity, making them less averse to both. Consistent with this view we show evidence from the field and from the lab that intuitive thinkers perform better than deliberative thinkers when making decisions in highly ambiguous and risky environments. We also find that attitudes toward risk and ambiguity are related to different individual characteristics and wealth. While the wealthy are less averse to risk, they dislike ambiguity more, a finding that has implications for financial puzzles.

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Paper provided by European University Institute in its series Economics Working Papers with number ECO2011/13.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2011/13
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