Boosting promotes advantageous risk-taking

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Bertoldo, Giulia 
D’Souza, Darlene 
Alì, Sonia 

Abstract: Due to the prevalence and importance of choices with uncertain outcomes, it is essential to establish what interventions improve risky decision-making, how they work, and for whom. Two types of low-intensity behavioural interventions are promising candidates: nudges and boosts. Nudges guide people to better decisions by altering how a choice is presented, without restricting any options or modifying the underlying payoff matrix. Boosts, on the other hand, teach people decision strategies that focus their attention on key aspects of the choice, which allows them to make more informed decisions. A recent study compared these two types of interventions and found that boosts worked better for risky choices aimed at maximising gains, whereas nudges worked best for choices aimed at minimising losses. Though intriguing, these findings could not be easily interpreted because of a limitation in the items used. Here we replicate that study, with an extended item set. We find that boosts work by promoting risk-taking when it is beneficial, whereas nudges have a consistent (lesser) impact, regardless of whether risk-taking is beneficial or not. These results suggest that researchers and policymakers should consider the base rate risk propensity of the target population when designing decision-support systems.

Article, /4014/477, /4014/4013, article
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Humanities and Social Sciences Communications
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Palgrave Macmillan UK