Theory and Decision

, Volume 75, Issue 4, pp 465–496 | Cite as

Measuring risk aversion with lists: a new bias



Various experimental procedures aimed at measuring individual risk aversion involve a list of pairs of alternative prospects. We first study the widely used method by Holt and Laury (Am Econ Rev 92(5):1644–1655, 2002), for which we find that the removal of some items from the lists yields a systematic decrease in risk aversion and scrambles the ranking of individuals by risk aversion. This bias, that we call embedding bias, is quite distinct from other confounds that have been previously observed in the use of the HL method. It may be related to empirical phenomena and theoretical developments where better prospects increase risk aversion. Nevertheless, we also find that the more recent elicitation method due to Abdellaoui et al. (Theory Decis 71:63–80, 2011), also based on lists but using only one and the same probability in the list, does not display any statistically significant bias when the corresponding items of the list are removed. Our results suggest that methods other than the popular HL one may be preferable for the measurement of risk aversion.


Risk aversion Risk attitudes Experiments Lists Elicitation method Holt Laury Abdellaoui Driouchi L’Haridon Independence axiom Probability weighting 


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and BusinessUniversitat Pompeu Fabra and Barcelona GSEBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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