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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. Booij, Adam S. & van Praag, Bernard M. S. & van de Kuilen, Gijs, 2009. "A Parametric Analysis of Prospect Theory's Functionals for the General Population," IZA Discussion Papers 4117, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  3. George Wu & John List & Uri Gneezy, 2006. "The uncertainty effect: When a risky prospect is valued less than its worst possible outcome," Framed Field Experiments 00152, The Field Experiments Website.
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  9. Amos Tversky & Daniel Kahneman, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7656, David K. Levine.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Meier, Stephan & Sprenger, Charles, 2009. "Present-Biased Preferences and Credit Card Borrowing," IZA Discussion Papers 4198, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Quiggin, John, 1982. "A theory of anticipated utility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 323-343, December.
  14. Johannes Abeler & Armin Falk & Lorenz Götte & David Huffman, 2009. "Reference Points and Effort Provision," CESifo Working Paper Series 2585, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. David M Kreps & Evan L Porteus, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625018000000000009, David K. Levine.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
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