Results from this experiment have everything to do with wording and nothing to do with ‘logic’. For each scenario, the expected outcome for each alternative was the same: if option A was 100% chance of a gain of $100 then option B was a 50% chance at gaining $200 which had the same expected gain of $100; alternatively if option A was a 100% chance of a loss of $50, then option B had a 50% chance of losing $100 with the same expected loss of $50. Whether a participant chooses the risky option (not a ‘sure thing’) depends on whether the question is worded as a ‘gain’ or a ‘loss’. As you can see in the typical data, when a choice involves a ‘gain’ (more money, more lives saved), participants tend to be risk averse and choose the option that is a ‘sure thing’. However, when there is a chance of ‘loss’ (loss of money, death), participants are much more willing to take a chance to avoid it or be risk seeking. This pattern of risk aversion and risk seeking behaviour has been replicated in many different scenarios and is very robust.

Question for Review