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In this paper, we document a violation of normative and descriptive models of decision making under risk. In contrast to uncertainty effects found by Gneezy, List and Wu (2006), some subjects in our experiments valued lotteries more than the best possible outcome. We show that the overbidding effect is more strongly related to individuals’ competitiveness traits than comprehension of the lottery’s payoff mechanism.
Recent studies have identified the uncertainty effect (UE), whereby risky prospects (e.g., a binary lottery that offers either a $50 or $100 gift certificate) are valued less than their worst possible outcome (a $50 certificate). This effect has been proposed to result from “direct risk-aversion” which posits that the mere uncertainty of a lottery directly decreases its value. However, this effect may also be driven by the potential disappointment inherent in not receiving the better of the two outcomes (disappointment aversion), or the mere fact that the risky prospect is referred to as a “lottery”. The results of two experiments do not support either of these two alternatives. Specifically, the results of Experiment 1 indicate that the UE is observed even when the values of the two lottery outcomes are similar, or even identical. Experiment 2 further replicates the UE in a context in which the word “lottery” is never used (a company promotional). These results are consistent with a direct risk-aversion mechanism (Gneezy et al., 2006; Simonsohn, 2009) and suggest that the UE obtains across a number of different contexts.
We introduce the Berlin Numeracy Test, a new psychometrically sound instrument that quickly assesses statistical numeracy and risk literacy. We present 21 studies (n=5336) showing robust psychometric discriminability across 15 countries (e.g., Germany, Pakistan, Japan, USA) and diverse samples (e.g., medical professionals, general populations, Mechanical Turk web panels). Analyses demonstrate desirable patterns of convergent validity (e.g., numeracy, general cognitive abilities), discriminant validity (e.g., personality, motivation), and criterion validity (e.g., numerical and non-numerical questions about risk). The Berlin Numeracy Test was found to be the strongest predictor of comprehension of everyday risks (e.g., evaluating claims about products and treatments; interpreting forecasts), doubling the predictive power of other numeracy instruments and accounting for unique variance beyond other cognitive tests (e.g., cognitive reflection, working memory, intelligence). The Berlin Numeracy Test typically takes about three minutes to complete and is available in multiple languages and formats, including a computer adaptive test that automatically scores and reports data to researchers (http://www.riskliteracy.org). The online forum also provides interactive content for public outreach and education, and offers a recommendation system for test format selection. Discussion centers on construct validity of numeracy for risk literacy, underlying cognitive mechanisms, and applications in adaptive decision support.
We present the Maximization Inventory, which consists of three separate scales: decision difficulty, alternative search, and satisficing. We show that the items of the Maximization Inventory have much better psychometric properties when compared to the original Maximization Scale (Schwartz et al., 2002). The satisficing scale is a new addition to the study of maximization behavior, and we demonstrate that this scale is positively correlated with positive adaptation, whereas the decision difficulty and alternative search scales are positively correlated with nonproductive decisional behavior. The Maximization Inventory was then compared to previous maximization scales and, while the decision difficulty and alternative search scales are positively correlated with similar previous constructs, the satisficing scale offers a dimension entirely different from maximization.
A recent study indicates that acute stress affects moral decision making (Youssef et al., in press). The current study examines whether results can be replicated using a different kind of stressor and a different kind of stress measurement. We induced stress in 25 participants with a cover-story of an anticipated speech. Another group of 25 participants was tested in a control condition. Stress levels and stress responses were assessed with questionnaires and heart rate. All participants performed a moral decision-making task describing moral dilemmas. These dilemmas were either personal or impersonal and each offered a utilitarian and a non-utilitarian option. Acutely stressed participants, compared to control participants, made fewer utilitarian judgments and needed longer for making a decision. Individual physiological stress response was related to fewer utilitarian judgments. Results are in line with those previously found although different instruments were used.
The impact of default options on choice is a reliable, well-established behavioral finding. However, several different effects may lend to choosing defaults in an often indistinguishable manner, including loss aversion, inattention, information leakage, and transaction costs associated with switching. We introduce the notion of the “default pull” as the effect that even subtle default options have on decision makers’ uncertainty about their own preferences. The default pull shapes what a decision maker prefers by causing her to consider whether she prefers the default. We demonstrate default pull effects using a simple decision making task that strips away many of the usual reasons that defaults could affect choices, and we show that defaults can have substantial effects on choice, even when the default itself was not chosen.
Shame leads to devaluation of the social self, and thus to a desire to improve self-esteem. Money, which is related to the notion of one’s ability, may help people demonstrate competence and gain self-esteem and respect from others. Based on the perspectives of feelings-as-information and threatened ego, we tested the hypothesis that a sense of shame heightens the desire for money, prompting self-interested behaviors as reflected by monetary donations and social value orientation. The results showed that subjects in the shame condition donated less money (Experiment 1) and exhibited more self-interested choices in the modified decomposed game (Experiment 2). The desire for money as reflected in overestimated coin sizes mediated the effect of shame on self-interested behavior. Our findings suggest that shame elicits the desire to acquire money to amend the threatened social self and improve self-esteem; however, it may induce a self-interested inclination that could harm social relationships.
Affective forecasting skills have important implications for decision making. However, recent research suggests that immune neglect—the tendency to overlook coping strategies that reduce future distress—may lead to affective forecasting problems. Prior evidence for immune neglect has been indirect. More direct evidence and a deeper understanding of immune neglect are vital to informing the design of future decision-support interventions. In the current study, young adults (N = 325) supplied predicted, actual, and recollected reactions to an emotionally-evocative interpersonal event, Valentine’s Day. Based on participants’ qualitative descriptions of the holiday, a team of raters reliably coded the effectiveness of their coping strategies. Supporting the immune neglect hypothesis, participants overlooked the powerful role of coping strategies when predicting their emotional reactions. Immune neglect was present not only for those experiencing the holiday negatively (non-daters) but also for those experiencing it positively (daters), suggesting that the bias may be more robust than originally theorized. Immune neglect was greater for immediate emotional reactions than more enduring reactions. Further, immune neglect was conspicuously absent from recollected emotional reactions. Implications for decision-support interventions are discussed.
This paper develops tests of independence and stationarity in choice data collected with small samples. The method builds on the approach of Smith and Batchelder (2008). The technique is intended to distinguish cases where a person is systematically changing “true” preferences (from one group of trials to another) from cases in which a person is following a random preference mixture model with independently and identically distributed sampling in each trial. Preference reversals are counted between all pairs of repetitions. The variance of these preference reversals between all pairs of repetitions is then calculated. The distribution of this statistic is simulated by a Monte Carlo procedure in which the data are randomly permuted and the statistic is recalculated in each simulated sample. A second test computes the correlation between the mean number of preference reversals and the difference between replicates, which is also simulated by Monte Carlo. Data of Regenwetter, Dana, and Davis-Stober (2011) are reanalyzed by this method. Eight of 18 subjects showed significant deviations from the independence assumptions by one or both of these tests, which is significantly more than expected by chance.