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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
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Handle: RePEc:eui:euiwps:eco2011/13
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  1. Dohmen, Thomas J. & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David & Sunde, Uwe, 2010. "Are risk aversion and impatience related to cognitive ability?," Munich Reprints in Economics 20063, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  3. Fernando Alvarez & Luigi Guiso & Francesco Lippi, 2012. "Durable Consumption and Asset Management with Transaction and Observation Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2272-2300, August.
  4. Hans-Martin von Gaudecker & Arthur van Soest & Erik Wengstrom, 2011. "Heterogeneity in Risky Choice Behavior in a Broad Population," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 664-94, April.
  5. Yoram Halevy, 2007. "Ellsberg Revisited: An Experimental Study," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(2), pages 503-536, 03.
  6. Michèle Cohen & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2011. "An experimental investigation of imprecision attitude and its relation with risk attitude and impatience," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00502820, HAL.
  7. Peter Klibanoff & Massimo Marinacci & Sujoy Mukerji, 2002. "A smooth model of decision making under ambiguity," ICER Working Papers - Applied Mathematics Series 11-2003, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research, revised Apr 2003.
  8. Syngjoo Choi & Raymond Fisman & Douglas Gale & Shachar Kariv, 2007. "Consistency and Heterogeneity of Individual Behavior under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1921-1938, December.
  9. Michèle Cohen & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2011. "An experimental investigation of imprecision attitude and its relation with risk attitude and impatience," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 71(1), pages 81-109, July.
  10. repec:dgr:kubcen:199912 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Michèle Cohen & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2009. "An experimental investigation of imprecision attitude and its relation with risk attitude and impatience," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00389674, HAL.
  12. Larry G. Epstein & Martin Schneider, 2010. "Ambiguity and Asset Markets," Annual Review of Financial Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 315-346, December.
  13. David Ahn & Syngjoo Choi & Douglas Gale & Shachar Kariv, 2008. "Estimating Ambiguity Aversion in a Portfolio Choice Experiment," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000001989, David K. Levine.
  14. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  15. Sujoy Chakravarty & Jaideep Roy, 2009. "Recursive expected utility and the separation of attitudes towards risk and ambiguity: an experimental study," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 66(3), pages 199-228, March.
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