Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10419/161855
Authors: 
Khaw, Mel Win
Li, Ziang
Woodford, Michael
Year of Publication: 
2017
Series/Report no.: 
CESifo Working Paper 6416
Abstract: 
The theory of expected utility maximization (EUM) proposed by Bernoulli explains risk aversion as a consequence of 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 biasbut 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.
JEL: 
C91
D80
D81
D87
Document Type: 
Working Paper

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