ABSTRACT

Purpose - For the past several decades, behavioral economics or behavioral decision theory has undergone rapid development. This study provides a critical review of the development of behavioral economics with a focus on what are deemed to be core theories in the field. Starting from the utility function proposed by Daniel Bernoulli in the 18th century, the development history of utility functions until the emergence of the prospect theory is thoroughly reviewed. Some of the experimental results violating the traditionally assumed utility function and supporting the prospect theory value function are summarized. The most representative principles of rational choice are transitivity, independence from irrelevant alternatives (IIA), and regularity. The development of behavioral economics has been triggered by finding counter-examples to these principles. Some of the choice behaviors discussed in this study as counter-examples to the traditional theories of rational choice are the St. Petersburg paradox; the Allais paradox; gambling behavior; and the various context effects including the similarity effect, attraction effect, and the compromise effect. The Elimination-by-Aspects (EBA) model, which was proposed as an explanation for the similarity effect, is discussed in detail as well. Based on the literature review and further analysis, this study summarizes the relationship between the context effects, prospect theory, and EBA model. Research design, data, and methodology - This study provides an extensive literature review on several important theories in the field of behavioral decision theory and adds some critical comments to the theories and the relationships among them. This study first reviews the development of utility functions. Daniel Bernoulli introduced the concept of utility function to solve the St. Petersburg paradox. In the mid-20th century, Herbert Simon proposed the “satisficing” heuristic and presented a value function with a shape different from traditional utility functions. This study highlights the strengths and weaknesses of several utility functions proposed until the emergence of the prospect theory value function. Results - This study posits that prospect theory and EBA model are the two most important theories in the field of behavioral decision theory. They can explain various choice behaviors that traditional utility maximization analysis has been unable to. The application of these models to various fields is further increasing nowadays. This study explains how prospect theory and the EBA model can be used to explain the context effects. Conclusions - The traditional economic theory relies on a single variable called “utility” in explaining consumer choice. However, this study argues that, in investigating consumer choice, several other variables should also be considered. These are the similarity among alternatives, an alternative’s prototypicality within the category, the dominance relationship between alternatives, and the reference point in evaluating alternatives. Due to the development of behavioral economics, we are now closer to a more complete understanding of consumer choice behavior than in the past when we had only a single tool called utility.

KEYWORD

Behavioral Economics, Prospect Theory, Elimination- By-Aspects Model, Context Effects.

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