A parametric analysis of prospect theory’s functionals for the general population

A.S. Booij, B.M.S. van Praag, G. van de Kuilen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


This article presents the results of an experiment that completely measures the utility function and probability weighting function for different positive and negative monetary outcomes, using a representative sample of N = 1,935 from the general public. The results confirm earlier findings in the lab, suggesting that utility is less pronounced than what is found in classical measurements where expected utility is assumed. Utility for losses is found to be convex, consistent with diminishing sensitivity, and the obtained loss-aversion coefficient of 1.6 is moderate but in agreement with contemporary evidence. The estimated probability weighting functions have an inverse-S shape and they imply pessimism in both domains. These results show that probability weighting is also an important phenomenon in the general population. Women and lower educated individuals are found to be more risk averse, in agreement with common findings. In contrast to previous studies that ascribed gender differences in risk attitudes solely to differences in the degree utility curvature, however, our results show that this finding is primarily driven by loss aversion and, for women, also by a more pessimistic psychological response toward the probability of obtaining the best possible outcome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-148
JournalTheory and Decision
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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