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Small- and Large-Stakes Risk Aversion: Implications of Concavity Calibration for Decision Theory

  • James C. Cox
  • Vjollca Sadiraj

A growing literature reports the conclusions that: (a) expected utility theory does not provide a plausible theory of risk aversion for both small-stakes and large-stakes gambles; and (b) this decision theory should be replaced with an alternative theory characterized by loss aversion. This paper explains that the arguments in previous literature fail to support these conclusions. Either concavity calibration has no general implication for expected utility theory or it has problematic implications for all decision theories that involve concave transformations (utility or value functions) of positive money payoffs, which makes loss aversion irrelevant to the argument

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Paper provided by Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University in its series Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series with number 2006-03.

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Handle: RePEc:exc:wpaper:2006-03
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  1. Cox, James C. & Smith, Vernon L. & Walker, James M., 1982. "Auction market theory of heterogeneous bidders," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 319-325.
  2. Paul Milgrom & Robert J. Weber, 1981. "A Theory of Auctions and Competitive Bidding," Discussion Papers 447R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  8. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Roberto Serrano & Oscar Volij, 2003. "Rejecting Small Gambles Under Expected Utility," Economics Working Papers 0032, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  9. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
  10. Colin Camerer & Richard H. Thaler, 2003. "In Honor of Matthew Rabin: Winner of the John Bates Clark Medal," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 159-176, Summer.
  11. 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.
  12. Matthew Rabin & Richard H. Thaler, 2001. "Anomalies: Risk Aversion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 219-232, Winter.
  13. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1981. "Allocation Mechanisms and the Design of Auctions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1477-99, November.
  14. Steven A. Matthews, 1981. "Selling to Risk Averse Buyers with Unobservable Tastes," Discussion Papers 480S, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  15. William Vickrey, 1961. "Counterspeculation, Auctions, And Competitive Sealed Tenders," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 16(1), pages 8-37, 03.
  16. Moore, John, 1984. "Global Incentive Constraints in Auction Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1523-35, November.
  17. Yaari, Menahem E, 1987. "The Dual Theory of Choice under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 95-115, January.
  18. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "A Psychological Perspective on Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 162-168, May.
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