Experimental Economics

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 131–154 | Cite as

Why choice lists increase risk taking

  • David J. Freeman
  • Guy MayrazEmail author
Original Paper


Choice lists with random incentives are widely used for preference elicitation. It is commonly assumed that subjects choose the same option in each question as they would have if it were the only question, but recent findings challenge this assumption. We conduct a large sample experiment varying incentives and presentation independently, and examine choices both near and away from certainty. We consistently find more risk taking when a choice between a safe prize and a risky lottery is embedded in a choice list than when it is presented on its own. This difference remains when we inform subjects of the paid choice in advance, implying that isolation fails not because of the random incentives scheme, but simply because the choice appears in a list together with others. We conjecture that subjects are uncertain about their preferences, reduce this uncertainty through considering the choices that confront them, and make cautious decisions in the interim. Other conditions and non-choice data support this interpretation. Our results open up the possibility that preferences inferred from choice lists offer a better indication of informed preferences than preferences inferred from single choices.


Choice lists Random incentive scheme Discovered preferences Presentation effect 

JEL Classification

C91 D03 D81 



We thank the editor, referees, and seminar and conference audiences for comments that improved the paper. Funding for the experiment was provided by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).

Supplementary material

10683_2018_9586_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (794 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 794 KB)


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Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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