A Psychological Law of Inertia and the Illusion of Loss Aversion
Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 1, pp. 23-32, 2006
Posted: 31 Oct 2005
The principle of loss aversion is thought to explain a wide range of anomalous phenomena involving tradeoffs between losses and gains. In this article, I show that the anomalies loss aversion was introduced to explain - the risky bet premium, the endowment effect, and the status quo bias - are characterized not only by a loss/gain tradeoff, but by a tradeoff between the status quo and change; and, that a propensity towards the status quo in the latter tradeoff is sufficient to explain these phenomena. Moreover, I show that two basic psychological principles - (1) that motives drive behavior; and (2) that preferences tend to be fuzzy and ill-defined - imply the existence of a robust and fundamental propensity of this sort. Thus, a loss aversion principle is rendered superfluous to an account of the phenomena it was introduced to explain.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation