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Psychological and environmental determinants of myopic loss aversion

Hopfensitz, Astrid and Wranik, Tanja (2008): Psychological and environmental determinants of myopic loss aversion.

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Abstract

Each economic actor is characterized by his own evaluations, traits, and strategies. Although heterogeneity of economic actors is widely acknowledged, little is known about the factors causing it. In this paper, we will examine the behavioral bias known as myopic loss aversion, and the environmental and psychological factors leading to different behavioral reactions. Myopic loss aversion has been used to suggest that fund managers should reveal information only rarely, to lead investors to choose options with (on average) higher returns.

Specifically, we experimentally studied the impact of experience, individual differences, and emotions on behavioral responses to feedback frequency in an investment setting. Participants made investment decisions in one of three feedback frequency conditions: (1) they received feedback after each round and had the opportunity to make investment changes each time; (2) they received feedback after each round, but were only given the possibility to make changes every three rounds; and (3) they received aggregated feedback every three rounds, and also had the opportunity to make changes every three rounds. We collected information about personality and individual difference factors before the experiment. Finally, evaluations and emotions were measured every three rounds, immediately after feedback was given.

We hypothesized that myopic loss aversion is not a general phenomenon, but that stable individual differences lead to different evaluations and emotional reactions concerning feedback. This implies that myopic loss aversion will only be present for some groups of people under certain conditions. As predicted, we found that myopic loss aversion is not generally observed; rather, we found both an experience effect and a personality effect. In particular, myopic loss aversion was particularly likely: (1) when initial investment rounds lead to negative investment experiences (i.e., losses); and (2) for investors with low self-efficacy concerning the investment situation. ‘Self efficacy’ is related to a personality profile characterized by confidence in decision-making abilities, high optimism, and low anxiety. Our results may help explain which individual and situational factors lead to myopic loss aversion, and should help researchers and practitioners provide optimal feedback to different types of investment clients.

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