IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Getting Used to Risks: Reference Dependence and Risk Inclusion

  • Astrid Matthey

Experimental and field evidence show that people perceive and evaluate new risks differently from risks that are common. In particular, people get used to the presence of certain risks and become less eager to avoid them. We explain this observation by including risks in the reference states of individuals, which requires a more general concept of the reference state than has previously been considered in the literature. We find two effects. First, the inclusion of the risk in the reference state changes its evaluation. A risk being present on the market induces a self-enforcing process of increasing acceptance of this risk without any new information becoming available or people's tastes changing. We term this the risk inclusion effect. Second, a risk with lower inherent (reference-independent) utility may be preferred to a risk with higher inherent utility if individuals are more used to accepting the former than the latter. This leads to ineffcient decisions if habituation is seen as contributing less to welfare than inherent utility. Both effects have implications for the optimal regulation of risks.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Revised version, 2005
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany in its series SFB 649 Discussion Papers with number SFB649DP2005-036.

in new window

Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: May 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2005-036
Contact details of provider: Postal: Spandauer Str. 1,10178 Berlin
Phone: +49-30-2093-5708
Fax: +49-30-2093-5617
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. W. Kip Viscusi & Wesley A. Magat & Joel Huber, 1987. "An Investigation of the Rationality of Consumer Valuations of Multiple Health Risks," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 18(4), pages 465-479, Winter.
  2. Hadjikhani, Amjad, 1998. "Consumer behavior and the media : a loosely coupled network," Working Papers 1998:1, Uppsala University, Department of Business Studies.
  3. John A. List, 2003. "Neoclassical Theory Versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the Marketplace," NBER Working Papers 9736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sugden, Robert, 2003. "Reference-dependent subjective expected utility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 111(2), pages 172-191, August.
  5. Munro, Alistair & Sugden, Robert, 2003. "On the theory of reference-dependent preferences," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 407-428, April.
  6. 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.
  7. SHALEV, Jonathan, 1997. "Loss aversion equilibrium," CORE Discussion Papers 1997023, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  8. Loomes, Graham & Chris Starmer & Robert Sugden, 2002. "Do Anomalies Disappear in Repeated Markets?," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 132, Royal Economic Society.
  9. Pollak, Robert A, 1970. "Habit Formation and Dynamic Demand Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(4), pages 745-63, Part I Ju.
  10. Knetsch, Jack L & Sinden, J A, 1984. "Willingness to Pay and Compensation Demanded: Experimental Evidence of an Unexpected Disparity in Measures of Value," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(3), pages 507-21, August.
  11. Francisco Gomes & Alexander Michaelides, 2003. "Portfolio Choice With Internal Habit Formation: A Life-Cycle Model With Uninsurable Labor Income Risk," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(4), pages 729-766, October.
  12. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  13. Paul R. Portney, 1992. "Trouble in happyville," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(1), pages 131-132.
  14. Cochrane, John H. & Campbell, John, 1999. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Scholarly Articles 3119444, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Sundaresan, Suresh M, 1989. "Intertemporally Dependent Preferences and the Volatility of Consumption and Wealth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 2(1), pages 73-89.
  16. George Wu & Richard Gonzalez, 1999. "Nonlinear Decision Weights in Choice Under Uncertainty," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(1), pages 74-85, January.
  17. Friedrich Breyer & Victor R. Fuchs, 1982. "Risk Attitudes in Health: An Exploratory Study," NBER Working Papers 0875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Botond Koszegi & Matthew Rabin, 2004. "A Model of Reference-Dependent Preferences," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0407001, EconWPA.
  19. Samuelson, William & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1988. " Status Quo Bias in Decision Making," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 7-59, March.
  20. Valery Polkovnichenko, 2007. "Life-Cycle Portfolio Choice with Additive Habit Formation Preferences and Uninsurable Labor Income Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 20(1), pages 83-124, January.
  21. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Experimental Tests of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1325-48, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hum:wpaper:sfb649dp2005-036. 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: (RDC-Team)

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.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.