The effects of statistical information on risk and ambiguity attitudes, and on rational insurance decisions

Peter P. Wakker, Daniëlle R.M. Timmermans, Irma Machielse

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29 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a field study into the effects of statistical information concerning risks on willingness to take insurance, with special attention being paid to the usefulness of these effects for the clients (the insured). Unlike many academic studies, we were able to use in-depth individual interviews of a large representative sample from the general public (N = 476). The statistical information that had the most interesting effects, "individual own past-cost information," unfortunately enhanced adverse selection, which we could directly verify because the real health costs of the clients were known. For a prescriptive evaluation this drawback must be weighted against some advantages: a desirable interaction with risk attitude, increased customer satisfaction, and increased cost awareness. Descriptively, ambiguity seeking was found rather than ambiguity aversion, and no risk aversion was found for loss outcomes. Both findings, obtained in a natural decision context, deviate from traditional views in risk theory but are in line with prospect theory. We confirmed prospect theory's reflection at the level of group averages but falsified it at the individual level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1770-1784
Number of pages15
JournalManagement Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2007


  • Adverse selection
  • Ambiguity
  • Health insurance
  • Risk attitude

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