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Kenan Institute 2024 Grand Challenge: Business Resilience
Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
Sep 1, 2015

The Commonality of Loss Aversion Across Procedures and Stimuli


Individuals tend to give losses approximately 2-fold the weight that they give gains. Such approximations of loss aversion (LA) are almost always measured in the stimulus domain of money, rather than objects or pictures. Recent work on preference-based decision-making with a schedule-less keypress task (relative preference theory, RPT) has provided a mathematical formulation for LA similar to that in prospect theory (PT), but makes no parametric assumptions in the computation of LA, uses a variable tied to communication theory (i.e., the Shannon entropy or information), and works readily with non-monetary stimuli. We evaluated if these distinct frameworks described similar LA in healthy subjects, and found that LA during the anticipation phase of the PT-based task correlated significantly with LA related to the RPT-based task. Given the ease with which non-monetary stimuli can be used on the Internet, or in animal studies, these findings open an extensive range of applications for the study of loss aversion. Furthermore, the emergence of methodology that can be used to measure preference for both social stimuli and money brings a common framework to the evaluation of preference in both social psychology and behavioral economics.

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