Experimental Economics

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 613–641 | Cite as

A theoretical and experimental appraisal of four risk elicitation methods

  • Paolo CrosettoEmail author
  • Antonio Filippin
Original Paper


The paper performs an in-depth comparison of four incentivised risk elicitation tasks. We show by means of a simulation exercise that part of the often observed heterogeneity of estimates across tasks is due to task-specific measurement error induced by the mere mechanics of the tasks. We run a replication experiment in a homogeneous subject pool using a between subjects one-shot design. Results shows that the task estimates vary over and above what can be explained by the simulations. We investigate the possibility the tasks elicit different types of preferences, rather than simply provide a different measure of the same preferences. In particular, the availability of a riskless alternative plays a prominent role helping to explain part of the differences in the estimated preferences.


Risk attitudes Elicitation methods Experiment 

JEL Classification

C81 C91 D81 



We are grateful to the Max Planck Institute of Economics (Jena) for financial and logistic support and to Denise Hornberger, Nadine Marmai, Florian Sturm, and Claudia Zellmann for their assistance in the lab. We would like to thank the members of the ESA mailing list for useful references and participants to seminars in Strasbourg, Middlesex, Paris 1 Sorbonne, MPI Jena, DIW Berlin, INRA Rennes and Göttingen as well as the audience of the IMEBE conference in Madrid and the BEELAB conference in Florence and two anonymous referees for useful comments. All remaining errors are ours.

Supplementary material

10683_2015_9457_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 27 kb)


  1. Abdellaoui, M., Driouchi, A., & L’Haridon, O. (2011). Risk aversion elicitation: Reconciling tractability and bias minimization. Theory and Decision, 71, 63–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersen, S., Harrison, G., Lau, M., & Rutström, E. (2006). Elicitation using multiple price list formats. Experimental Economics, 9, 383–405. doi: 10.1007/s10683-006-7055-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson, L. R., & Mellor, J. M. (2009). Are risk preferences stable? Comparing an experimental measure with a validated survey-based measure. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 39(2), 137–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Andreoni, J., & Sprenger, C. (2011). Uncertainty equivalents: Testing the limits of the independence axiom. NBER Working Papers 17342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.Google Scholar
  5. Andreoni, J., & Sprenger, C. (2012). Risk preferences are not time preferences. American Economic Review, 102(7), 3357–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ball, S., Eckel, C., & Heracleous, M. (2010). Risk aversion and physical prowess: Prediction, choice and bias. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 41(3), 167–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bardsley, N. (2008). Dictator game giving: Altruism or artefact? Experimental Economics, 11(2), 122–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barsky, R. B., Juster, F. T., Kimball, M. S., & Shapiro, M. D. (1997). Preference parameters and behavioral heterogeneity: An experimental approach in the health and retirement study. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(2), 537–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Becker, G., DeGroot, M., & Marschak, J. (1964). Measuring utility by a single-response sequential method. Behavioral Science, 9, 226–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Binswanger, H. P. (1981). Attitudes toward risk: Theoretical implications of an experiment in rural India. The Economic Journal, 91(364), 867–890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blais, A. R., & Weber, E. U. (2006). A domain-specific risk-taking (DOSPERT) scale for adult populations. Judgment and Decision Making, 1, 33–47.Google Scholar
  12. Bruner, D. (2009). Changing the probability versus changing the reward. Experimental Economics, 12(4), 367–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Camerer, C. F. (1992). Recent tests of generalizations of expected utility theory. In W. Edwards (Ed.), Utility theories: Measurements and applications studies in risk and uncertainty (pp. 207–251). Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Charness, G., & Gneezy, U. (2010). Portfolio choice and risk attitudes: An experiment. Economic Inquiry, 48(1), 133–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Charness, G., & Gneezy, U. (2012). Strong evidence for gender differences in risk taking. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 83(1), 50–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Charness, G., & Viceisza, A. (2011). Comprehension and risk elicitation in the field: Evidence from rural Senegal. IFPRI discussion papers 1135, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)Google Scholar
  17. Charness, G., Gneezy, U., & Imas, A. (2013). Experiential methods: Eliciting risk preferences. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 87, 43–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cox, J. C., Roberson, B., & Smith, V. L. (1982). Theory and behavior of single object auctions. Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  19. Crosetto, P., & Filippin, A. (2013). The ’bomb’ risk elicitation task. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 47(1), 31–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Crosetto, P., & Filippin, A. (2014). Experimental evidence on the cause of gender differences in risk attitudes. mimeoGoogle Scholar
  21. Croson, R., & Gneezy, U. (2009). Gender differences in preferences. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(2), 448–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Csermely, T., & Rabas, A. (2014). How to reveal people’s preferences: Comparing time consistency and predictive power of multiple price list risk elicitation methods. Department of economics working papers, Vienna University of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.Google Scholar
  23. Dave, C., Eckel, C., Johnson, C., & Rojas, C. (2010). Eliciting risk preferences: When is simple better? Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 41(3), 219–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Deck, C., Lee, J., & Reyes, J. (2010) Personality and the consistency of risk taking behavior: Experimental evidence. Working Papers 10–17, Chapman University, Economic Science Institute.Google Scholar
  25. Deck, C., Lee, J., Reyes, J. A., & Rosen, C. C. (2013). A failed attempt to explain within subject variation in risk taking behavior using domain specific risk attitudes. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 87, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dohmen, T., Falk, A., Huffman, D., Sunde, U., Schupp, J., & Wagner, G. G. (2011). Individual risk attitudes: Measurement, determinants, and behavioral consequences. Journal of the European Economic Association, 9(3), 522–550.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Eckel, C. C., & Grossman, P. J. (2002). Sex differences and statistical stereotyping in attitudes toward financial risk. Evolution and Human Behavior, 23(4), 281–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Eckel, C. C., & Grossman, P. J. (2008a). Forecasting risk attitudes: An experimental study using actual and forecast gamble choices. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 68(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Eckel, C. C., & Grossman, P. J. (2008b). Men, women and risk aversion: Experimental evidence (Vol. 1, pp. 1061–1073, chap 113). Handbook of experimental economics results. Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  30. Filippin, A., & Crosetto, P. (2015). A reconsideration of gender differences in risk attitudes. Management Science, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  31. Garcia-Gallego, A., Georgantzis, N., Jaramillo-Gutiérrez, A., & Parravano, M. (2012). The lottery-panel task for bi-dimensional parameter-free elicitation of risk attitudes. Technical report, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada.Google Scholar
  32. Gneezy, U., & Potters, J. (1997). An experiment on risk taking and evaluation periods. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 112(2), 631–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greiner, B. (2004). The online recruitment system ORSEE 2.0—A guide for the organization of experiments in economics. Working Paper Series in Economics 10, University of Cologne, Department of Economics.Google Scholar
  34. Grossman, P. J., & Lugovskyy, O. (2011). An experimental test of the persistence of gender-based stereotypes. Economic Inquiry, 49(2), 598–611.Google Scholar
  35. Harbaugh, W., Krause, K., & Vesterlund, L. (2010). The fourfold pattern of risk attitudes in choice and pricing tasks. The Economic Journal, 120(545), 595–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Harless, D. W., & Camerer, C. F. (1994). The predictive utility of generalized expected utility theories. Econometrica, 62(6), 1251–1289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Harrison, G., & Swarthout, J. (2014). Experimental payment protocols and the bipolar behaviorist. Theory and Decision, 77(3), 423–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Harrison, G. W. (1990). Risk attitudes in first-price auction experiments: A Bayesian analysis. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 72(3), 541–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Harrison, G. W., & Rutström, E. E. (2008). Risk aversion in the laboratory. In J. C. Cox & G. W. Harrison (Eds.), Risk aversion in experiments, research in experimental economics (Vol. 12, pp. 41–196). Bradford: Emerald Group Publishing Limited.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Harrison, G. W., Lau, M. I., & Rutström, E. E. (2007). Estimating risk attitudes in Denmark: A field experiment. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 109(2), 341–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hey, J. D., & Orme, C. (1994). Investigating generalizations of expected utility theory using experimental data. Econometrica, 62(6), 1291–1326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Holt, C., & Laury, S. (2002). Risk aversion and incentive effects. American Economic Review, 92(5), 1644–1655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Isaac, R., & James, D. (2000). Just who are you calling risk averse? Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 20(2), 177–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Kaivanto, K., & Kroll, E. B. (2011). Negative recency, randomization device choice, and reduction of compound lotteries. Working Paper Series in Economics 22, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Department of Economics and Business Engineering.Google Scholar
  45. Kaivanto, K., & Kroll, E. B. (2012). Alternation bias and reduction in st. petersburg gambles: An experimental investigation. Technical report, Lancaster University.Google Scholar
  46. Lejuez, C., Read, J., Kahler, C., Richards, J., Ramsey, S., Stuart, G., et al. (2002). Evaluation of a behavioral measure of risk taking: The Balloon Analogue Risk Task (BART). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 8(2), 75.Google Scholar
  47. List, J. A. (2007). On the interpretation of giving in dictator games. Journal of Political Economy, 115, 482–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Loomes, G., & Sugden, R. (1982). Regret theory: An alternative theory of rational choice under uncertainty. Economic Journal, 92(368), 805–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nelson, J. A. (2014). Are women really more risk-averse than men? A re-analysis of the literature using expanded methods. Journal of Economic Surveys, 29(3), 566–585.Google Scholar
  50. Nelson, J. A. (2015). Not-so-strong evidence for gender differences in risk taking. Feminist Economics, forthcoming.Google Scholar
  51. Perugini, M., Tan, J. H. W., & Zizzo, D. J. (2010). Which is the more predictable gender? Public good contribution and personality. Economic Issues Journal Articles, 15(1), 83–110.Google Scholar
  52. Reynaud, A., & Couture, S. (2012). Stability of risk preference measures: Results from a field experiment on French farmers. Theory and Decision, 73(2), 203–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Slovic, P. (1966). Risk-taking in children: Age and sex differences. Child Development, 37(1), 169–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Starmer, C. (2000). Developments in non-expected utility theory: The hunt for a descriptive theory of choice under risk. Journal of Economic Literature, 38(2), 332–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. van Rossum, G. (1995). Python reference manual. CWI Report CS-R9525.Google Scholar
  56. Wagner, G. G., Frick, J.R., & Schupp, J. (2007) The german socio-economic panel study (soep): Scope, evolution and enhancements. SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).Google Scholar
  57. Wakker, P. P., (2008) Explaining the characteristics of the power (CRRA) utility family. Health Economics, 17(12), 1329–1344.Google Scholar
  58. Wakker, P., & Deneffe, D. (1996). Eliciting von Neumann-Morgenstern utilities when probabilities are distorted or unknown. Management Science, 42(8), 1131–1150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INRA and Univ. Grenoble AlpesGrenobleFrance
  2. 2.DEMMUniversity of MilanMilanoItaly
  3. 3.Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)BonnGermany

Personalised recommendations