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Do past decisions influence future decisions?

John D. Hey and Wenting Zhou

Applied Economics Letters 2013


The random lottery incentive (RLI) mechanism (which involves subjects taking many decisions, only a randomly chosen one of which determines the payment to the subject) is widely used in many experiments, and hence its validity is of crucial importance to the inferences that can be drawn from the experiment. Its validity has been investigated in two main ways: first, in simple experiments where subjects were presented with just two decision problems, and second, in experiments where subjects were presented with many problems. In the first set, the hypothesis under test was whether the decisions made on the two problemswere connected; in the second set, whether the set of all (previous) decisions affected the current decision. This article combines and extends these two ways by investigating, in experiments with many questions, whether the immediately preceding decision affects the current decision. This is a cognitively lessdemanding hypothesis than that all previous decisions are taken into account, but allows for an indirect effect of previous decisions on current ones. Reassuringly, we find little effect and hence our results complement the previous evidence indicating that the RLI mechanism is robust and can safely be used.

Keywords: contamination; experiments; nonexpected utility preferences; random lottery incentive mechanism; separation

JEL Classification: C91; D81

Technical detail is in the paper. Below is some more detal on the estimation procedure and the GAUSS estimation program. Below that are the various input data files.

Maximum Likelihood Estimation (PDF , 57kb)

GAUSS program ( 8kb download) ( 19kb download)data.prd ( 3kb download) ( 1kb download) qus.prd ( 1kb download) ( 6kb download)trl.prd ( 1kb download), ( 7kb download)trr.prd ( 1kb download).