Graduation Year

2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Sandra Schneider

Keywords

Risk, Skill, Success Rate, Uncertainty

Abstract

Using one's success and failure experiences can be an indicator of how well risk is being managed in uncertain situations, particularly because exact probability information about outcomes is often missing. Experience-based paradigms include this more real-world aspect of a lack of information when studying risk taking behavior. This thesis builds upon experience-based paradigms to include the element of skill.

A puzzle task was developed. A goal was given to participants to try to discern a pattern in each puzzle that would yield consistently positive outcomes. Participants were randomly assigned to a high or low success rate, but told that skill played a role in performance. The outcomes associated with each puzzle were chosen by the participant, and served as a measure of risk taking. After playing 41 puzzles, participants responded to scales measuring skill and chance beliefs, and motivational focus.

Risk preferences were similar to experience-based paradigm predictions, though they were not well-calibrated. Those with a high success rate took more risks relative to those with a low success rate, but the results were less extreme than predicted. In addition, a closer look revealed that the pattern for those with a low success rate began by increasing their risk taking, and then did not decrease their risk taking significantly. Neither group felt that skill or chance was playing a dominant role in outcomes, though self-serving bias was observed as better performance did lead to higher ratings of skill. Overall, the results suggest that introducing the potential for skill may change how people approach risk in ways not predicted by experience-based paradigms.

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