Research Essay examples

1870 Words Sep 1st, 2014 8 Pages
Behavioral Finance: Key Concepts - Prospect Theory
Key Concept No.8: Prospect Theory
Traditionally, it is believed the net effect of the gains and losses involved with each choice are combined to present an overall evaluation of whether a choice is desirable. Academics tend to use "utility" to describe enjoyment and contend that we prefer instances that maximize our utility.

However, research has found that we don't actually process information in such a rational way. In 1979, Kahneman and Tversky presented an idea called prospect theory, which contends that people value gains and losses differently, and, as such, will base decisions on perceived gains rather than perceived losses. Thus, if a person were given two equal choices, one
Choice B: You have a 100% chance of losing \$500.

If the subjects had answered logically, they would pick either "A" or "B" in both situations. (People choosing "B" would be more risk adverse than those choosing "A"). However, the results of this study showed that an overwhelming majority of people chose "B" for question 1 and "A" for question 2. The implication is that people are willing to settle for a reasonable level of gains (even if they have a reasonable chance of earning more), but are willing to engage in risk-seeking behaviors where they can limit their losses. In other words, losses are weighted more heavily than an equivalent amount of gains.

It is this line of thinking that created the asymmetric value function: |

This function is a representation of the difference in utility (amount of pain or joy) that is achieved as a result of a certain amount of gain or loss. It is key to note that not everyone would have a value function that looks exactly like this; this is the general trend. The most evident feature is how a loss creates a greater feeling of pain compared to the joy created by an equivalent gain. For example, the absolute joy felt in finding \$50 is a lot less than the absolute pain caused by losing \$50.

Consequently, when multiple gain/loss events happen, each event is valued separately and then combined to create a cumulative feeling. For example, according to the value

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