IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Do People Make Decisions Under Risk Based on Ignorance? An Empirical Test of the Priority Heuristic against Cumulative Prospect Theory


  • Andreas Glöckner

    () (Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn)

  • Tilmann Betsch

    (University of Erfurt)


Brandstätter, Gigerenzer and Hertwig (2006) put forward the priority heuristic (PH) as a fast and frugal heuristic for decisions under risk. According to the PH, individuals do not make trade-offs between gains and probabilities, as proposed by expected utility models such as cumulative prospect theory (CPT), but use information in a non-compensatory manner and ignore information. We conducted three studies to test the PH empirically by analyzing individual choice patterns, decision times and information search parameters in diagnostic decision tasks. Results on all three dependent variables conflict with the predictions of the PH and can be better explained by the CPT. The predictive accuracy of the PH was high for decision tasks in which the predic-tions align with the predictions of the CPT but very low for decision tasks in which this was not the case. The findings indicate that earlier results supporting the PH might have been caused by the selection of decision tasks that were not diagnostic for the PH as compared to CPT.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Glöckner & Tilmann Betsch, 2008. "Do People Make Decisions Under Risk Based on Ignorance? An Empirical Test of the Priority Heuristic against Cumulative Prospect Theory," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2008_05, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods.
  • Handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2008_5

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lohse, Gerald L. & Johnson, Eric J., 1996. "A Comparison of Two Process Tracing Methods for Choice Tasks," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 28-43, October.
    2. Glimcher, Paul W. & Dorris, Michael C. & Bayer, Hannah M., 2005. "Physiological utility theory and the neuroeconomics of choice," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 52(2), pages 213-256, August.
    3. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    4. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Pieterse, Arwen H. & de Vries, Marieke & Kunneman, Marleen & Stiggelbout, Anne M. & Feldman-Stewart, Deb, 2013. "Theory-informed design of values clarification methods: A cognitive psychological perspective on patient health-related decision making," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 156-163.
    2. Venkatraman, Vinod & Payne, John W. & Huettel, Scott A., 2014. "An overall probability of winning heuristic for complex risky decisions: Choice and eye fixation evidence," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 73-87.

    More about this item


    Decision Strategy; Fast and Frugal Heuristics; Bounded Rationality; Decision Latency; Process Tracing; Cumulative Prospect Theory;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mpg:wpaper:2008_5. 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: (Marc Martin). General contact details of provider: .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.