Research Topic

Human preferences and risky choices

About this Research Topic

Frontiers in Psychology
Research Topic on Human preferences and risky choices
Co-editors: Kusev, van Schaik, Juliusson

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Frontiers in Psychology
Research Topic on Human preferences and risky choices
Co-editors: Kusev, van Schaik, Juliusson


There are different views on what preferences for risks are and whether they are indicators of stable, underlying generic cognitive systems. Preferences could be conceived as an attitude towards a set of properties of context, memory and affect - a gauge of how much uncertainty one is willing to tolerate. This Research Topic aims to initiate a discussion on the stability of preferences for risks - as research has shown that different decision domains, response modes, and framing facilitate preference reversals. A consistent claim from behavioural decision researchers is that, contrary to the assumptions of classical economics, preferences are not stable and inherent constructs in individuals but are modified by levels of accessibility in memory, context, decision complexity, and type of psychological processing (e.g., sampling or computational "trade-offs" in processing). For example, in a sampling-based decision-making paradigm it is argued that preferences are not essential for making risky decisions. The existing theoretical and empirical evidence reveals that human preferences are relative and unstable, undermining the predictions of normative theory. Recent theoretical accounts in psychology have expanded the debate further by offering evolutionary models of decision-making under risk. While most of the researcher has explored optimisation goals (traditionally assumed in economics), evolutionary psychology has promoted adaptation-driven processes for risky choices. Moreover, we have witnessed a renaissance of preferences as affect rather than as a construct with psycho-economical properties. Although behavioural decision research is still engaged in challenging the foundation of economic theory, at present, opinions seem less unified as to whether preferences reflect common psychological constructs.


The Research Topic will focus on human preferences and risky choices. Topics include:

- Normative, descriptive and experience-based decision making
- Preference reversals
- Accessibility in memory
- Context dependence
- Psychological processing:
i) probabilities, utilities, computations and 'trade-offs'
ii) sampling
- Affect
- Evolutionary accounts


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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