Online Reputational Loss Aversion: Empirical Evidence from

35 Pages Posted: 11 May 2015 Last revised: 6 Nov 2017

See all articles by Ramesh Shankar

Ramesh Shankar

University of Connecticut - School of Business

Date Written: May 5, 2015


Do people care equally about reputational gains and losses? We study this question by analyzing users’ contribution to online knowledge repositories, with data from, a website for user-curated technical questions and answers. Based on about 18% of all relevant activity on this website, we find that users post fewer answers after receiving upvotes as well as downvotes. Interestingly, users who receive downvotes post far fewer answers than users who receive upvotes. This suggests that reputational losses (downvotes) elicit a stronger reaction in users than reputational gains (upvotes), suggesting the presence of reputational loss aversion. Loss aversion as indicated by relative reaction to downvotes compared to upvotes is convex in reputation – it is stronger among users in the highest reputation segment (reputations above 50,000) and the lowest reputation segment (reputations in the 20k-30k range), and lower in the middle ranges. Our paper is novel in studying reputational loss aversion using observational data, compared to prior studies on loss aversion in choice settings using experimental data.

Keywords: Loss aversion, endowment effect, econometrics, panel data, knowledge management

Suggested Citation

Shankar, Ramesh, Online Reputational Loss Aversion: Empirical Evidence from (May 5, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Ramesh Shankar (Contact Author)

University of Connecticut - School of Business ( email )

2100 Hillside Road
Storrs, CT 06269-2041
United States
860-486-5217 (Phone)
860-486-4839 (Fax)


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