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Financial risk-taking related to individual risk preference, social comparison and competition

Journal article
Authors Tommy Gärling
Dawei Fang
Martin Holmén
Patrik Michaelsen
Published in Review of Behavioral Finance
ISSN 1940-5979
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Centre for Finance
Department of Economics
Language en
Keywords Mutual fund industry, Performance evaluation, Financial risk-taking, Social comparison, Competition
Subject categories Applied Psychology, Economics


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how social comparison and motivation to compete account for elevated risk-taking in fund management corroborated by asset market experiments when performance depends on rank-based incentives. Design/methodology/approach – In two laboratory experiments, university students (n1 5 240/n2 5 120) make choices between risky and certain outcomes of hypothetical sums of money. Both experiments investigate in which direction risky choices in an individual condition (individual risk preference) are shifted when participants compare their performance to another participant’s performance (social comparison), being instructed or not to outperform the other (incentive to compete). Findings – In the absence of incentives to compete, participants tend to minimize the differences between expected outcomes to themselves and to the other, but when provided with incentives to compete, they tend to maximize these differences. An independent additional increase in risk-taking is observed when participants are provided with incentives to compete. Originality/value – Original findings include that social comparison does not evoke motivation to compete unless incentives are offered and that increases in risk-taking depend both on what the other chooses and the incentives.

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