Kusev, Petko, van Schaik, Paul and Juliusson, Asgeir (2012) Human preferences and risky choices. Frontiers Research Topics . Frontiers Media SA. ISBN 9782889190560

There are different views on what preferences for risks are and whether they are indicators of stable, underlying generic cognitive systems. Preferences could be conceived as an attitude towards a set of properties of context, memory and affect - a gauge
of how much uncertainty one is willing to tolerate. This special issue aims to initiate a discussion on the stability of preferences for risks - as research has shown that different decision domains, response modes, and framing facilitate preference reversals. A consistent claim from behavioural decision researchers is that, contrary to the assumptions of classical economics, preferences are not stable and
inherent constructs in individuals but are modified by levels of accessibility in memory, context, decision complexity, and type of psychological processing (e.g., sampling or computational “tradeoffs” in processing). For example, in a sampling-based decision-making paradigm it is argued that preferences are not essential for making risky decisions. The existing theoretical and empirical evidence reveals that human preferences are relative and unstable, undermining the predictions of normative theory. Recent theoretical accounts in psychology have expanded the debate further by offering evolutionary models of decision-making under risk. While most of the researcher has explored optimisation goals (traditionally assumed in economics), evolutionary psychology has promoted adaptation-driven processes for risky choices. Moreover, we have witnessed a renaissance of preferences as affect rather than as a construct with psycho-economical properties. Although behavioural decision research is still engaged in challenging the foundation of economic theory, at present, opinions seem less unified as to whether preferences reflect common psychological constructs.

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