Journal Article

An Experimental Investigation of Violations of Transitivity in Choice under Uncertainty


  • Birnbaum
  • M.
  • Schmidt
  • U.
Publication Date

Several models of decision-making imply systematic violations of transitivity of preference. Our experiments explored whether people show patterns of intransitivity predicted by regret theory and

majority rule. To distinguish “true” violations from those produced by “error,” a model was fit in which each choice can have a different error rate and each person can have a different pattern of true preferences that need not be transitive. Error rate for a choice is estimated from preference reversals between repeated presentations of that same choice. Our results showed that very few people repeated intransitive patterns. We can retain the hypothesis that transitivity best describes the data of the vast majority of participants.

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JEL Classification
C91, D81

Key Words

  • choice
  • decision making
  • errors
  • regret theory
  • transitivity