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Risk and Rationality: The Effect of Incidental Mood on Probability Weighting


Fehr-Duda, Helga; Epper, Thomas; Bruhin, Adrian; Schubert, Renate (2007). Risk and Rationality: The Effect of Incidental Mood on Probability Weighting. Working paper series / Socioeconomic Institute No. 703, University of Zurich.

Abstract

When valuing risky prospects, people tend to overweight small probabilities and to underweight large probabilities. Nonlinear probability weighting has proven to be a robust empirical phenomenon and has been integrated in decision models, such as cumulative prospect theory. Based on a laboratory experiment with real monetary incentives, we show that incidental emotional states, such as preexisting good mood, have a significant effect on the shape of the probability weighting function, albeit only for women. Women in a better than normal mood tend to exhibit mood-congruent behavior, i.e. they weight probabilities of gains and losses relatively more optimistically. Men’s probability weights are not responsive to mood state. We find that the application of a mechanical decision criterion, such as the maximization of expected value, immunizes men against effects of incidental emotions. 40% of the male participants indeed report applying expected values as decision criterion. Only a negligible number of women do so.

Abstract

When valuing risky prospects, people tend to overweight small probabilities and to underweight large probabilities. Nonlinear probability weighting has proven to be a robust empirical phenomenon and has been integrated in decision models, such as cumulative prospect theory. Based on a laboratory experiment with real monetary incentives, we show that incidental emotional states, such as preexisting good mood, have a significant effect on the shape of the probability weighting function, albeit only for women. Women in a better than normal mood tend to exhibit mood-congruent behavior, i.e. they weight probabilities of gains and losses relatively more optimistically. Men’s probability weights are not responsive to mood state. We find that the application of a mechanical decision criterion, such as the maximization of expected value, immunizes men against effects of incidental emotions. 40% of the male participants indeed report applying expected values as decision criterion. Only a negligible number of women do so.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Socioeconomic Institute (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:D81, C91
Language:English
Date:February 2007
Deposited On:29 Nov 2011 22:47
Last Modified:12 Aug 2017 13:07
Series Name:Working paper series / Socioeconomic Institute
Official URL:http://www.econ.uzh.ch/wp.html

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