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Uncertainty Equivalents: Testing the Limits of the Independence Axiom

  • James Andreoni
  • Charles Sprenger

There is convincing experimental evidence that Expected Utility fails, but when does it fail, how severely, and for what fraction of subjects? We explore these questions using a novel measure we call the uncertainty equivalent. We find Expected Utility performs well away from certainty, but fails near certainty for about 40% of subjects. Comparing non-Expected Utility theories, we strongly reject Prospect Theory probability weighting, we support disappointment aversion if amended to allow violations of stochastic dominance, but find the u-v model of a direct preference for certainty the most parsimonious approach.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17342.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17342
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  1. David Gill & Victoria Prowse, 2011. "A Structural Analysis of Disappointment Aversion in a Real Effort Competition," Discussion Papers 2011001, University of Oxford, Nuffield College.
  2. Han Bleichrodt & José María Abellán-Perpiñan & JoséLuis Pinto & Ildefonso Méndez-Martínez, 2005. "Resolving inconsistencies in utility measurement under risk: Tests of generalizations of expected utility," Economics Working Papers 798, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  3. Ondřej Rydval & Andreas Ortmann & Sasha Prokosheva & Ralph Hertwig, 2009. "How certain is the uncertainty effect?," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 12(4), pages 473-487, December.
  4. Glenn Harrison & John List, 2004. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00058, The Field Experiments Website.
  5. Abeler, Johannes & Falk, Armin & Götte, Lorenz & Huffman, David B., 2009. "Reference Points and Effort Provision," IZA Discussion Papers 3939, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Stephan Meier & Charles Sprenger, 2010. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 193-210, January.
  7. David M Kreps & Evan L Porteus, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625018000000000009, David K. Levine.
  8. Uri Gneezy & John A List & George Wu, 2006. "The Uncertainty Effect: When a Risky Prospect Is Valued Less Than Its Worst Possible Outcome," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(4), pages 1283-1309, November.
  9. Hey, John D & Orme, Chris, 1994. "Investigating Generalizations of Expected Utility Theory Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1291-1326, November.
  10. Harless, David W & Camerer, Colin F, 1994. "The Predictive Utility of Generalized Expected Utility Theories," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1251-89, November.
  11. Booij, Adam S. & van de Kuilen, Gijs, 2009. "A parameter-free analysis of the utility of money for the general population under prospect theory," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 651-666, August.
  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. Neilson, William S., 1992. "Some mixed results on boundary effects," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 275-278, July.
  14. Sarah Jacobson & Ragan Petrie, 2009. "Learning from mistakes: What do inconsistent choices over risk tell us?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 38(2), pages 143-158, April.
  15. Quiggin, John, 1982. "A theory of anticipated utility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 323-343, December.
  16. Adam Booij & Bernard Praag & Gijs Kuilen, 2010. "A parametric analysis of prospect theory’s functionals for the general population," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 68(1), pages 115-148, February.
  17. Oliver, Adam, 2007. "A Qualitative Analysis Of The Lottery Equivalents Method," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(02), pages 185-204, July.
  18. Charles A. Holt & Susan K. Laury, 2002. "Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1644-1655, December.
  19. Schoemaker, Paul J H, 1982. "The Expected Utility Model: Its Variants, Purposes, Evidence and Limitations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 529-63, June.
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