Reasoning about outcome probabilities and values in preference reversals

Thinking and Reasoning 5 (2):175 – 188 (1999)
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Abstract
Research on preference reversals has demonstrated a disproportionate influence of outcome probability on choices between monetary gambles. The aim was to investigate the hypothesis that this is a prominence effect originally demonstrated for riskless choice. Another aim was to test the structure compatibility hypothesis as an explanation of the effect. The hypothesis implies that probability should be the prominent attribute when compared with value attributes both in a choice and a preference rating procedure. In Experiment 1, two groups of undergraduates were presented with medical treatments described by two value attributes (effectiveness and pain-relief). All participants performed both a matching task and made preference ratings. In the latter task, outcome probabilities were added to the descriptions of the medical treatments for one of the groups. In line with the hypothesis, this reduced the prominence effect on the preference ratings observed for effectiveness. In Experiment 2, a matching task was used to demonstrate that probability was considered more important by a group of participating undergraduates than the value attributes. Furthermore, in both choices and preference ratings the expected prominence effect was found for probability.
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