No aspiration to win? An experimental test of the aspiration level model

Enrico Diecidue*, Moshe Levy, Jeroen van de Ven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A growing body of literature studies the effects of aspiration levels on people’s choices. Researchers often assume an aspiration level at zero, which helps to explain several empirical phenomena. In two experiments, we test this assumption. Our experimental design exploits the discontinuity in the utility function at the aspiration level. The lotteries vary in complexity in terms of the number of outcomes and the use of round or non-round probabilities. We do not find support for an aspiration level at zero, neither for simple lotteries nor for complex lotteries. Overall, our aggregate results are consistent with prospect theory, but can also be explained by a population with heterogeneous aspiration levels instead of a homogeneous aspiration level at zero.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)245-266
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Risk and Uncertainty
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Aspiration levels
  • Decision under risk


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