The Indifferent, the Good Samaritan, the Brave and the Agent in Allais Paradox situation – or How Endowment Effect Influences Our Decision in Case of Allais Paradox?

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Background and purpose: Mainstream economic models do not take ownership into consideration. Only after the findings of behavioural economists was endowment effect widely observed. Endowment effect means that goods that one owns are valued higher than other goods not held in endowment. At the same time the principal-agent literature is concerned with how the principal (such as employer) can motivate his agent (say the employee), to act in the principal’s interests and also for their holdings. The main problem is that acting in somebody’s else’s interests can influence our values as well. Moreover, the principal as owner suffers from endowment effect. Both situations can be treated as a risky decision. Risk confuses our rationality in a predictable way.

Design/Methodology/Approach: Due to this it was observed how foreign students from various cultural backgrounds decided (n=186 answers) in a risky financial situation by focusing on Allais’ classic gambles. I also presented their preferences over certain and uncertain outcomes regarding the owner of the final win; i.e. how they choose for themselves or on behalf of one of their best friends. One famous experiment - which tested the descriptive validity of the axioms’ expected utility theory - was Allais. Allais handled probabilities and outcomes in high hypothetical payoff financial gamble situations; he found that when offering two similar options, the common consequences will not be removed by the actors. I was interested in what happens when the actors take risks on behalf of others. It was used between-subjects technique on an extended multicultural sample. Regarding the two different topics, three hypotheses were tested (1); based on Allais paradox (2); observed ownerships (3); the comparison of two phenomena.

Results: The results show that the subjects responded differently when they needed to decide about their own properties rather when their friends’ properties were concerned. When a sure safe outcome was offered to the subjects, they took more risk on behalf of their friends rather than own. Moreover, the subjects do not take into consideration that the same attributes must be ignored, so Allais paradox was verified.

Conclusion: The goal of this paper is then twofold. First, it was established a conceptual link between Allais-type behaviour and ownership problem. Second, Allais axiom was used to characterize different roles. Knowing predictable patterns of seemingly irrational heuristics in human behaviour can improve economic theory. At the same time, this knowledge helps us to avoid irrational decisions.

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