We examine whether exposure to a more or less risky environment affects people’s subsequent risk-taking behavior. In a laboratory setting, all subjects went through twelve rounds of multiple-price-list decisions between a risky alternative and a safe alternative. In the first six rounds, subjects were randomly assigned to a high-, moderate-, or low-risk environment, which differed in the variances of the lotteries they were exposed to. In the last six rounds, subjects in all treatments made decisions on an identical set of lotteries. We found that subjects who had experienced a riskier environment exhibited a higher degree of risk aversion. Our experimental design allows us to conclude that this effect is driven by the risk environment per se, rather than the realized outcomes of the risk. This finding has important theoretical and policy implications.
Bibliographical noteEarlier versions of this paper were circulated under the titles of “Exposure to Risk and Risk Aversion: A Laboratory Experiment” and “Bigger Risk, More Risk Aversion: Experimental Evidence”.
- Laboratory experiment
- Risk aversion