Our Fears, from Jim Sogi

February 1, 2016 |

People are afraid. They watch too much TV. TV shows many bad things. They access net info aggregating and confirming their fears in confirmation bias. A friend of my wife appears unreasonably afraid of Dengue fever, but the chances of getting it are very very low. Seems there is a lot of fear in the market shaking out weak hands. People vote from unreasonable fears. People fear crime, but crime is lower. The fears are mostly unreasonable, and should create opportunities.

Alston Mabry writes: 

Check out this article.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Evidence from Blackjack Tables



Psychologists study regret primarily by measuring subjects' attitudes in laboratory experiments. This does not shed light on how expected regret affects economic actions in market settings. To address this, we use proprietary data from a blackjack table in Las Vegas to analyze how expected regret affects peoples''decisions during gambles. Even among a group of people who choose to participate in a risk-taking activity, we find strong evidence of an economically significant omission bias: players incur substantial losses by playing too conservatively. This behavior is prevalent even among large stakes gamblers, and becomes more severe following previous aggressive play, suggesting a rebound effect after aggressive play.

from the paper:

Panel A also illustrates the first-order result: approximately 80% of all deviations from the Basic Strategy involve passive mistakes; ones in which the player should have taken an extra card and did not, ones in which the player should have split or doubled down but did not. Only one mistake in five involves players behaving overly aggressively. In panel B we no longer restrict attention to single-hand deals, but also include deals in which the player (rightly or wrongly) split. In a handful of cases, the player splits more than twice, but in general the basic fact that passive errors are much more common than aggressive errors holds regardless of the number of hands played (or won).

[ … ]

This paper uses novel field data obtained from actual play at a Las Vegas Blackjack table to show that errors of omission are four times more likely than errors of commission. This profound omission bias occurs in spite of the fact that real economic agents are making real decisions with their own money, reaping the rewards of skill and good luck, suffering the costs of bad luck and mistakes. The bias we observe grows more common in the wake of past aggressive play, and is robust to controls for memory and skill. Perhaps few decisions of economic consequence are made at a Blackjack table. Nevertheless, the underlying mechanism here—choosing between acting or not acting in an economic environment with uncertain payoffs—is present in many economic problems, such as planning for retirement, searching for a job, or starting a business. Indeed, the findings from our field study are striking when one considers that Blackjack players are not a random sample of economic agents: they have self-selected into the game of Blackjack based on their willingness—indeed, desire—to bear risk. The conservatism that we identify at a Blackjack table is all the more severe when we consider this self-selection issue.


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