We examine the risky choices of contestants in the popular TV game show "Deal or No Deal" and related classroom experiments. Contrary to the traditional view of expected utility theory, the choices can be explained in large part by previous outcomes experienced during the game. Risk aversion decreases after earlier expectations have been shattered by unfavorable outcomes or surpassed by favorable outcomes. Our results point to reference-dependent choice theories such as prospect theory, and suggest that path-dependence is relevant, even when the choice problems are simple and well defined, and when large real monetary amounts are at stake.
The American Economic Review is a general-interest economics journal. The journal is published quarterly and contains articles on a broad range of topics. Established in 1911, the AER is among the nation's oldest and most respected scholarly journals in the economics profession.