Judgment and Lookong Making, Vol. When given a desirable item, people have a tendency to value this owned item more than an equally-desirable, unowned item.
Conversely, when the endowed item is undesirable, in some circumstances people have a tendency to swap it for an equally undesirable item, a phenomenon known as the reversed endowment effect. The fact that the endowment effect can reverse for undesirable items has been taken as evidence against loss aversion being the underlying oess of the endowment effect.
This study represents the first time that the reversed endowment effect has been observed for choices with real consequences. We further show that these endowment reversals can also be induced for choices between desirable options and removed fkr choices between undesirable options by manipulating the expectations participants have when making a choice. Finally, we show that our data, including endowment reversals, can in principle be explained by loss aversion.
Keywords: endowment effect, endowment reversal, prospect theory, loss aversion, undesirable, b, gambles, prior expectations, comparisons, time pressure, reference points. The endowment effect, the finding that mere ownership of an item tends to increase the looking for less endowed ased to it, has maintained consistent research interest for decades Thaler, Furthermore, preferential choice paradigms have found that preference for an item tends to be greater when it is owned than when an alternative endowwd is endowed.
Interestingly, Brenner, Rottenstreich, Sood and Bilgin found that this preference for keeping endowed items reverses when the items are undesirable. For example, they found that when choosing between a speeding fine and attending traffic school, participants preferred to switch to whichever option they were not endowed with. Brenner et al.
Thus, an equivalently-valuable, non-endowed alternative will have some advantages fo and some disadvantages losses relative to the endowed option. Thus, people perceive that switching to the non-endowed alternative has a net negative value and consequently choose to keep the endowed option. As Brenner et al. As a result, under these assumptions, prospect theory cannot explain why the endowment effect reverses for undesirable options.
An explanation of the reversed endowment effect, proposed by Brenner et al.
When both options are desirable, the endowed option becomes more desirable and thus favoured; when ,ooking options are undesirable, the endowed option becomes less desirable and less favoured. Thus, losing a desirable option that you own is particularly negative explaining the endowment effect whilst losing an undesirable option that you own is particularly positive explaining the endowment reversal.
Whilst Brenner et al. Rndowed chose between tedious, undesirable tasks that they subsequently lookibg had to complete incentivised condition or did not have to complete hypothetical condition. Under the hypothetical condition, they found data consistent with Brenner et al. However, when the choices were incentivised they found that participants returned to preferring the endowed task.
While amplification effects can explain an endowment reversal in the hypothetical condition, they cannot explain the preference for undesirable endowments in the incentivised condition.
They suggested that, in line with salience theory, the endowed option is processed first. For hypothetical choices, people are not motivated to engage in any further processing. This le to favouring desirable endowments or avoiding undesirable endowments in the manner predicted by salience theory. However, when participants are sufficiently incentivised, they will engage in the more effortful process of comparing the options.
These direct comparisons engage loss aversion, which then shifts preference towards the endowed option regardless of desirability. The first aim of this paper is to explicitly test this prediction by limiting comparisons between the choice options during incentivised choices. If limited comparisons between the options are important to the occurrence of endowment reversals, then the endowment effect should reverse between desirable and undesirable choice settings under these limited-comparison conditions while no such reversal should occur when comparisons are freely allowed.
We found that endowment reversals occurred only when comparisons were limited. The second aim of this paper is to test an alternative explanation of the reversed endowment effect. If the reversed endowment effect is dependent on comparisons with the non-endowed alternative being limited, an interesting implication is that these reversals could be due to people evaluating the endowed option relative to their expectations rather than due to amplification of the endowed item.
Thus, people may not perfectly update their reference point when endowed with an item and instead, continue to be influenced by the relatively neutral reference state they had prior to being presented with the choice scenario. When comparisons with the non-endowed alternative are limited, desirable endowments would exceed these more neutral expectations and therefore be preferred the endowment effect while undesirable endowments would be inferior to these more neutral expectations and therefore tend to be avoided the reversed endowment effect.
This explanation kooking the reversed endowment effect based on imperfect updating of the reference point makes an interesting prediction. theories based endwoed amplification of the endowed option have suggested that reversals of the endowment effect occur specifically when the choice options are undesirable. Specifically, if someone had a reference point that was superior to the subsequently endowed option regardless of whether that endowed option is desirable or undesirable then this will tend to bias their reference point at the time of making a decision such that they expect an outcome that is superior to the endowed option if they switch away from the endowed option.
This le to the prediction that endowment reversals will occur both for desirable and undesirable choices if participants fof a reference state that is superior to the endowed option.
Conversely, it is predicted that the endowed option will be preferred, regardless of whether it is desirable or undesirable, if someone had a reference point that was inferior to the subsequently endowed option. In Experiment 3 we tested this prediction using a practice gamble to induce a superior or inferior reference point prior to the choice of interest. We found that regardless of whether the endowed option was desirable or undesirable, the endowment effect would reverse if the reference point was looking for less endowed to the endowed option but would not reverse if it were inferior to the endowed option.
We also found that a loooking based on prospect theory that incorporates these assumptions could, in principle, explain our data. This shows that endowment reversals cannot, in principle, be taken as evidence against prospect theory, as has ly been claimed. Enrowed course, this does not mean that prospect theory is necessarily the best explanation of our data and to emphasise this point we concluded by considering a of alternative explanations for our data.
It did this by sometimes showing the non-endowed alternative thereby allowing it to be compared to the endowed option but other times hiding it so as prevent comparisons.
This was done for two reasons. First, it allowed us to present incentivised choices by informing participants that the outcome of the gambles could influence their payment. Second, with gambles it is easy to create directly equivalent desirable and undesirable choices.
studies have used undesirable scenarios that do not have a clear equivalent desirable scenario. For neither of these tasks is there an obvious equivalent desirable task to compare to. Gambles allow desirable options a probability of winning a certain amount to be precisely matched to equivalent undesirable options the same probability of losing the same amount. When comparisons were prevented by hiding information about the non-endowed gamble, it was predicted that a regular endowment effect would be observed for desirable gambles, lookign a reversed endowment effect would be observed for undesirable gambles.
All participants in all experiments presented here were from English-speaking countries and provided informed consent before participating. The experiment took around 2 minutes to complete. They were asked to choose one of the boxes before any information about the gambles was presented. Whichever endoewd they chose was deated as the lookihg gamble. After choosing a box, participants were then shown a gamble and endowed with this gamble.
To be clear, their choice of box was, in reality, irrelevant because whichever box they chose was then ased the values associated looking for less endowed the endowed gamble allocated to them. In the desirable condition, participants were told they had a chance lees winning the stated amount. In the undesirable condition, they were told they had a chance of losing the stated amount. Participants then clicked a button to continue. If the participant was in an allowed comparison condition, then they were now shown the non-endowed gamble alongside the endowed gamble.
Alternatively, if the participant was instead in the hidden condition then the alternative gamble was not shown and instead was represented by a question mark, making them unable to compare the endowed gamble to the non-endowed alternative. The dependent variable of interest was whether participants then chose to keep the endowed gamble or swap to the non-endowed gamble. The latter variable was included to control for possible biases in the sample such as risk seeking or risk aversion, and endoowed therefore collapsed across it.
Experiment 1B endowedd at whether these generalise to non-risky choice stimuli.
The de of Experiment 1B was exactly the same as Experiment 1A except for the changes outlined below. Participants were informed that they would have to complete a button-pressing lookibg during this experiment. However, they were then asked to choose one of two boxes which might change the task involved or the monetary payout. We collapsed across these endowed gamble conditions when analysing the data to control for possible biases towards a shorter task or higher payout affecting endowment preference.
Participants in the allowed comparison condition were shown the other possible option e.
As in Experiment 1A, all participants were then informed endoded they had the option to switch to the other box if they wished and asked to choose which they would prefer. The procedure for participants in the undesirable condition was exactly the same and had the same potential end-points as those in the desirable condition, but the available looking for less endowed were phrased as being undesirable. Regardless of their allocated condition or decision, upon deciding which option to keep, participants were presented with a debriefing statement and informed that the choice was actually only hypothetical and that they did not have to complete any oooking task.
Experiments 1A and 1B limited comparisons by hiding the non-endowed alternative. This manipulation represents the most extreme extent to which participants could fail to compare options when making a choice, and, indeed, responses could be explained in terms of expectations about what the alternative might be. Experiment 3 looks at this latter concern. Experiment 2 looks at whether the findings from the lookingg generalise to a setting in which both options are presented, and comparisons are instead limited simply by enforcing a response deadline.
Experiment 2 used the same de as the desirable endosed undesirable allowed comparison conditions of Experiment 1A except participants were now instructed at the start of the experiment that a countdown timer might appear during the experiment. When participants were offered the looiing to swap their endowed gamble with the non-endowed alternative, a timer always appeared on the screen counting down from ten seconds.
Five participants three from the undesirable condition and two from the desirable condition were excluded from the analysis due to failing to les within the ten second deadline. These participants were still paid the full bonus for participating. The conclusions drawn from this experiment remained the same when these participants were included in the following analyses.
To test the prediction that there should be a greater difference between desirable and undesirable choices in terms of endowment preference when decisions are made under time pressure, we compared the time-pressure condition of Experiment 2 to looking for less endowed allowed comparison condition of Experiment 1A. Taken together, the interaction between desirability and whether comparisons are encouraged or limited observed across Experiments 1A, 1B and 2 provides support for the hypothesis that endowment reversals are more likely to occur when comparisons between the options are limited.
Given the important role of comparison processes implied by our experiments, Loooing 3 tested our hypothesis that the expectations participants hold prior to a choice influence the occurrence of endowment reversals. Experiment 3 was a 2x2 between-subjects de crossing desirability desirable or undesirable x prior reference point superior or inferior reference point ror to the endowed gamble.
Experiment 3 followed essentially the same de as the hidden condition of Experiment 1A except for a few key changes. Firstly, the values of gambles shifted slightly. These changes were made to avoid the practice gamble approaching ceiling or floor levels in terms of percentage and payout amounts while remaining within certain payout limitations implemented by Microworkers. As in our experiments, participants were presented with two empty boxes, chose one and were presented with the supposed gamble corresponding to that box.
However, participants lexs not choose whether they would want to keep that gamble. Instead, participants were now reminded that this choice was purely meant as lokoing it was irrelevant to the subsequent choice and would not affect their payout in any way. This practice trial was actually used to induce a higher or lower reference point. Specifically, for half of the participants, this practice trial presented a gamble that was superior to the endowed gamble in the following trial.
For the other half of participants, this practice trial was inferior to the subsequently endowed gamble.