Risk Aversion as a Perceptual Bias
Mel Win Khaw,
Ziang Li and
Michael Woodford ()
No 11929, CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers
The theory of expected utility maximization (EUM) explains risk aversion as due to diminishing marginal utility of wealth. However, observed choices between risky lotteries are difficult to reconcile with EUM: for example, in the laboratory, subjects' responses on individual trials involve a random element, and cannot be predicted purely from the terms offered; and subjects often appear to be too risk averse with regard to small gambles (while still accepting sufficiently favorable large gambles) to be consistent with any utility-of-wealth function. We propose a unified explanation for both anomalies, similar to the explanation given for related phenomena in the case of perceptual judgments: they result from judgments based on imprecise (and noisy) mental representation of the decision situation. In this model, risk aversion is predicted without any need for a nonlinear utility-of-wealth function, and instead results from a sort of perceptual bias --- but one that represents an optimal Bayesian decision, given the limitations of the mental representation of the situation. We propose a specific quantitative model of the mental representation of a simple lottery choice problem, based on other evidence regarding numerical cognition, and test its ability to explain the choice frequencies that we observe in a laboratory experiment.
Keywords: Bayesian decision theory; diminishing sensitivity; prospect theory; Rabin critique; Weber's Law (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C91 D03 D81 D87 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-exp and nep-upt
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (8) Track citations by RSS feed
Downloads: (external link)
CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at email@example.com
Working Paper: Risk Aversion as a Perceptual Bias (2017)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:11929
Ordering information: This working paper can be ordered from
http://www.cepr.org/ ... rs/dp.php?dpno=11929
Access Statistics for this paper
More papers in CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers Centre for Economic Policy Research, 33 Great Sutton Street, London EC1V 0DX.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by ().