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Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice

Richard H. Thaler and Eric J. Johnson
Management Science
Vol. 36, No. 6 (Jun., 1990), pp. 643-660
Published by: INFORMS
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2631898
Page Count: 18
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Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice
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Abstract

How is risk-taking affected by prior gains and losses? While normative theory implores decision makers to only consider incremental outcomes, real decision makers are influenced by prior outcomes. We first consider how prior outcomes are combined with the potential payoffs offered by current choices. We propose an editing rule to describe how decision makers frame such problems. We also present data from real money experiments supporting a "house money effect" (increased risk seeking in the presence of a prior gain) and "break-even effects" (in the presence of prior losses, outcomes which offer a chance to break even are especially attractive).

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