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Cumulative prospect theory and gambling

  • M Cain
  • D Law
  • D Peel

Whilst Cumulative Prospect theory (CPT) provides an explanation of gambling on longshots at actuarially unfair odds, it cannot explain why people might bet on more favoured outcomes. This paper shows that this is explicable if the degree of loss aversion experienced by the agent is reduced for small-stake gambles (as a proportion of wealth), and probability distortions are greater over losses than gains. If the utility or value function is assumed to be bounded, the degree of loss aversion assumed by Kahneman and Tversky leads to absurd predictions, reminiscent of those pointed out by Rabin (2000), of refusal to accept infinite gain bets at low probabilities. Boundedness of the value function in CPT implies that the indifference curve between expected-return and win-probability will typically exhibit both an asymptote (implying rejection of an infinite gain bet) and a minimum at low probabilities, as the shape of the value function dominates the probability weighting function. Also the high probability section of the indifference curve will exhibit a maximum. These implications are consistent with outcomes observed in gambling markets.

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Paper provided by Lancaster University Management School, Economics Department in its series Working Papers with number 566823.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:lan:wpaper:566823
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  1. 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.
  2. Matthew Rabin., 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Economics Working Papers E00-279, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. Machina, Mark J, 1982. ""Expected Utility" Analysis without the Independence Axiom," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 277-323, March.
  4. Conlisk, John, 1993. " The Utility of Gambling," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 6(3), pages 255-75, June.
  5. Joseph Golec & Maurry Tamarkin, 1998. "Bettors Love Skewness, Not Risk, at the Horse Track," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(1), pages 205-225, February.
  6. 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.
  7. Vaughan Williams, Leighton, 1999. "Information Efficiency in Betting Markets: A Survey," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 1-30, January.
  8. Bruno Jullien & Bernard Salanie, 2000. "Estimating Preferences under Risk: The Case of Racetrack Bettors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 503-530, June.
  9. Richard H. Thaler & Eric J. Johnson, 1990. "Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(6), pages 643-660, June.
  10. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  11. Matthew Rabin & Richard H. Thaler, 2001. "Anomalies: Risk Aversion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 219-232, Winter.
  12. Charles T. Clotfelter & Philip J. Cook, 1989. "Selling Hope: State Lotteries in America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number clot89-1, October.
  13. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "The Utility of Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 151.
  14. Raymond D. Sauer, 1998. "The Economics of Wagering Markets," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(4), pages 2021-2064, December.
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