Reference Wealth Effects in Sequential Choice

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Abstract

It is argued that in order to accommodate experimentally-observed choice patterns, it is not enough to model the utility function as being dependent on changes from a reference wealth point. Instead, individuals should be modeled as treating decisions as part of an identifiable sequence of decisions, and utility should be a function of reference wealth, income so far from the sequence, and payoffs from the current decision. The three-argument utility function allows for risk aversion over gains and risk seeking over losses for the first choice in the sequence, and for the house money and break-even effects in later decisions.

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