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Measuring ambiguity aversion: A systematic experimental approach

  • Krahnen, Jan Pieter
  • Ockenfels, Peter
  • Wilde, Christian

This paper provides a systematic analysis of individual attitudes towards ambiguity, based on laboratory experiments. The design of the analysis allows to capture individual behavior across various levels of ambiguity, ranging from low to high. Attitudes towards risk and attitudes towards ambiguity are disentangled, providing pure measures of ambiguity aversion. Ambiguity aversion is captured in several ways, i.e. as a discount factor net of a risk premium, and as an estimated parameter in a generalized utility function. We find that ambiguity aversion varies across individuals, and with the level of ambiguity, being most prominent for intermediate levels. Around one third of subjects show no aversion, one third show maximum aversion, and one third show intermediate levels of ambiguity aversion, while there is almost no ambiguity seeking. While most theoretical work on ambiguity builds on maxmin expected utility, our results provide evidence that MEU does not adequately capture individual attitudes towards ambiguity for the majority of individuals. Instead, our results support models that allow for intermediate levels of ambiguity aversion. Moreover, we find risk aversion to be statistically unrelated to ambiguity aversion on average. Taken together, the results support the view that ambiguity is an important and distinct argument in decision making under uncertainty.

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Paper provided by Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt in its series SAFE Working Paper Series with number 55.

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Date of creation: 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:zbw:safewp:55
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  16. Anderson, Evan W. & Ghysels, Eric & Juergens, Jennifer L., 2009. "The impact of risk and uncertainty on expected returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(2), pages 233-263, November.
  17. H. Henry Cao & Tan Wang & Harold H. Zhang, 2005. "Model Uncertainty, Limited Market Participation, and Asset Prices," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(4), pages 1219-1251.
  18. Eric Danan & Anthony Ziegelmeyer, 2006. "Are preferences complete? An experimental measurement of indecisiveness under risk," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2006-01, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
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