Prospect Theory: An Analysis of D...
Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk Daniel Kahneman Amos Tversky Econometrica, Vol. 47, No. 2. (Mar., 1979), pp. 263-292. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0012-9682%28197903%2947%3A2%3C263%3APTAAOD%3E2.0.CO%3B2-3 Econometrica is currently published by The Econometric Society. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/about/terms.html. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at http://www.jstor.org/journals/econosoc.html. Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to and preserving a digital archive of scholarly journals. For more information regarding JSTOR, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.jstor.org Thu Apr 5 17:18:55 2007
E C O N O M E T R I C A PROSPECT THEORY: AN ANALYSIS O F DECISION UNDER RISK This paper presents a critique of expected utility theory as a descriptive model of decision making under risk, and develops an alternative model, called prospect theory. Choices among risky prospects exhibit several pervasive effects that are inconsistent with the basic tenets of utility theory. In particular, people underweight outcomes that are merely probable in comparison with outcomes that are obtained with certainty. This tendency, called the certainty effect, contributes to risk aversion in choices involving sure gains and to risk seeking in choices involving sure losses. In addition, people generally discard components that are shared by all prospects under consideration. This tendency, called the isolation effect, leads to inconsistent preferences when the same choice is presented in different forms. An alternative theory of choice is developed, in which value is assigned to gains and losses rather than to final assets and in which probabilities are replaced by decision weights. The value function is normally concave for gains, commonly convex for losses, and is generally steeper for losses than for gains. Decision weights are generally lower than the corresponding probabilities, except in the range of low prob- abilities. Overweighting of low probabilities may contribute to the attractiveness of both insurance and gambling. 1. INTRODUCTION EXPECTED UTILITY THEORY has dominated the analysis of decision making under risk. It has been generally accepted as a normative model of rational choice , and widely applied as a descriptive model of economic behavior, e.g. [15,4]. Thus, it is assumed that all reasonable people would wish to obey the axioms of the theory [47,36], and that most people actually do, most of the time. The present paper describes several classes of choice problems in which preferences systematically violate the axioms of expected utility theory. In the light of these observations we argue that utility theory, as it is commonly interpreted and applied, is not an adequate descriptive model and we propose an alternative account of choice under risk. 2. CRITIQUE Decision making under risk can be viewed as a choice between prospects or gambles. A prospect (xl, pl . .. x,,, p,) is a contract that yields outcome xi with probability pi, where pl + p z + . . . +p, = 1. To simplify notation, we omit null outcomes and use (x, p) to denote the prospect (x, p 0, 1 -p) that yields x with probability p and 0 with probability 1-p. The (riskless) prospect that yields x with certainty is denoted by (x). The present discussion is restricted to prospects with so-called objective or standard probabilities. The application of expected utility theory to choices between prospects is based on the following three tenets. (i) Expectation: U(x1, p ~ . . . x,, p,) =plu(xl)+ . . . +p,u(x,). 'This work was supported in part by grants from the Harry F. Guggenheim Foundation and from the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense and was monitored by Office of Naval Research under Contract N00014-78-C-0100 (ARPA Order No. 3469) under Subcontract 78-072-0722 from Decisions and Designs, Inc. to Perceptronics, Inc. We also thank the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford for its support. 263
264 D. KAHNEMAN AND A. TVERSKY That is, the overall utility of a prospect, denoted by U, is the expected utility of its outcomes. (ii) Asset Integration: (xl, pl . . . x,, p,) is acceptable at asset position w iff U(w +XI, p1 . . . w +x", p,) u(w). That is, a prospect is acceptable if the utility resulting from integrating the prospect with one's assets exceeds the utility of those assets alone. Thus, the domain of the utility function is final states (which include one's asset position) rather than gains or losses. Although the domain of the utility function is not limited to any particular class of consequences, most applications of the theory have been concerned with monetary outcomes. Furthermore, most economic applications introduce the following additional assumption. (iii) Risk Aversion: u is concave (u" 0). A person is risk averse if he prefers the certain prospect (x) to any risky prospect with expected value x. In expected utility theory, risk aversion is equivalent to the concavity of the utility function. The prevalence'of risk aversion is perhaps the best known generalization regarding risky choices. It led the early decision theorists of the eighteenth century to propose that utility is a concave function of money, and this idea has been retained in modern treatments (Pratt , Arrow [41). In the following sections we demonstrate several phenomena which violate these tenets of expected utility theory. The demonstrations are based on the responses of students and university faculty to hypothetical choice problems. The respondents were presented with problems of the type illustrated below. Which of the following would you prefer? A: 50��/o chance to win 1,000, B: 450 for sure. 50% chance to win nothing The outcomes refer to Israeli currency. To appreciate the significance of the amounts involved, note that the median net monthly income for a family is about 3,000 Israeli pounds. The respondents were asked to imagine that they were actually faced with the choice described in the problem, and to indicate the decision they would have made in such a case. The responses were anonymous, and the instructions specified that there was no 'correct' answer to such problems, and that the aim of the study was to find out how people choose among risky prospects. The problems were presented in questionnaire form, with at most a dozen problems per booklet. Several forms of each questionnaire were con- structed so that subjects were exposed to the problems in different orders. In addition, two versions of each problem were used in which the left-right position of the prospects was reversed. The problems described in this paper are selected illustrations of a series of effects. Every effect has been observed in several problems with different outcomes and probabilities. Some of the problems have also been presented to groups of students and faculty at the University of Stockholm and at the
265 PROSPECT THEORY University of Michigan. The pattern of results was essentially identical to the results obtained from Israeli subjects. The reliance on hypothetical choices raises obvious questions regarding the validity of the method and the generalizability of the results. We are keenly aware of these problems. However, all other methods that have been used to test utility theory also suffer from severe drawbacks. Real choices can be investigated either in the field, by naturalistic or statistical observations of economic behavior, or in the laboratory. Field studies can only provide for rather crude tests of qualitative predictions, because probabilities and utilities cannot be adequately measured in such contexts. Laboratory experiments have been designed to obtain precise measures of utility and probability from actual choices, but these experimental studies typically involve contrived gambles for small stakes, and a large number of repetitions of very similar problems. These features of laboratory gambling complicate the interpretation of the results and restrict their generality. By default, the method of hypothetical choices emerges as the simplest pro- cedure by which a large number of theoretical questions can be investigated. The use of the method relies on the assumption that people often know how they would behave in actual situations of choice, and on the further assumption that the subjects have no special reason to disguise their true preferences. If people are reasonably accurate in predicting their choices, the presence of common and systematic violations of expected utility theory in hypothetical problems provides presumptive evidence against that theory. Certainty, Probability, and Possibility In expected utility theory, the utilities of outcomes are weighted by their probabilities. The present section describes a series of choice problems in which people's preferences systematically violate this principle. We first show that people overweight outcomes that are considered certain, relative to outcomes which are merely probable-a phenomenon which we label the certainty effect. The best known counter-example to expected utility theory which ekploits the certainty effect was introduced by the French economist Maurice Allais in 1953 . Allais' example has been discussed from both normative and descriptive standpoints by many authors [28,38].The following pair of choice problems is a variation of Allais' example, which differs from the original in that it refers to moderate rather than to extremely large gains. The number of respondents who answered each problem is denoted by N, and the percentage who choose each option is given in brackets. PROBLEM 1: Choose between A: 2,500 with probability 2,400 with probability 0 with probability N = 7 2 [I81 .33, .66, .01 B: 2,400 with certainty.
266 D. KAMNEMAN AND A. TVERSKY PROBLEM 2: Choose between C: 2,500 with probability .33, D: 2,400 with probability .34, 0 with probability .67 0 with probability .66. The data show that 82 per cent of the subjects chose B in Problem 1, and 83 per cent of the subjects chose C in Problem 2. Each of these preferences is significant at the .O1 level, as denoted by the asterisk. Moreover, the analysis of individual patterns of choice indicates that a majority of respondents (61 per cent) made the modal choice in both problems. This pattern of preferences violates expected utility theory in the manner originally described by Allais. According to that theory, with u(0) = 0, the first preference implies while the second preference implies the reverse inequality. Note that Problem 2 is obtained from Problem 1by eliminating a .66 chance of winning 2400 from both prospects. under consideration. Evidently, this change produces a greater reduc- tion in desirability when it alters the character of the prospect from a sure gain to a probable one, than when both the original and the reduced prospects are uncertain. A simpler demonstration of the same phenomenon, involving only two- outcome gambles is given below. This example is also based on Allais . In this pair of problems as well as in all other problem-pairs in this section, over half the respondents violated expected utility theory. To show that the modal pattern of preferences in Problems 3 and 4 is not compatible with the theory, set u(0) = 0, and recall that the choice of B implies u(3,000)/u(4,000)4/5, whereas the choice of C implies the reverse inequality. Note that the prospect C = (4,000, .20) can be expressed as (A, .25), while the prospect D = (3,000, .25) can be rewritten as (B,.25). The substitution axiom of utility theory asserts that if B is preferred to A, then any (probability) mixture (B, p) must be preferred to the mixture (A, p). Our subjects did not obey this axiom. Apparently, reducing the probability of winning from 1.0 to .25 has a greater effect than the reduction from