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risk, choice, experience, context, assimilation, valence, positive, negative, gamble, goals


Two experiments explored how the context of recently experiencing an abundance of positive or negative outcomes within a series of choices influences risk preferences. In each experiment, choices were made between a series of pairs of hypothetical 50/50 two-outcome gambles. Participants experienced a control set of mixed outcome gamble pairs intermingled with a randomly assigned set of (a) all-gain, (b) all-loss, or (c) a mixture of all-gain and all-loss gamble pairs. In both experiments, a positive experience led to reduced risk taking in the control set and a negative experience led to increased risk taking. These patterns persisted even after the all-gain and all-loss gamble pairs were no longer present. In addition, we showed that the good luck attributed to positive experiences was associated with decreased, rather than increased, risk taking. These results ran counter to the house money effect, and could not readily be accounted for by changes in assets. We suggest that the goals associated with the predominant valence are likely to be assimilated and applied to other choices within a given situation. We also discuss the need to learn more about the characteristics of choice bracketing and mental accounting that influence which aspects of situational context will be included or excluded from consideration when making each choice.

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Judgment and Decision Making, v. 11, no. 5, p. 424-440