Risky decision making: Testing for violations of transitivity predicted by an editing mechanism

Michael H. Birnbaum, Daniel Navarro-Martinez, Christoph Ungemach, Neil Stewart, Edika G. Quispe-Torreblanca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Transitivity is the assumption that if a person prefers A to B and B to C, then that person should prefer A to C. This article explores a paradigm in which Birnbaum, Patton and Lott (1999) thought people might be systematically intransitive. Many undergraduates choose C = ($96, .85; $90, .05; $12, .10) over A = ($96, .9; $14, .05; $12, .05), violating dominance. Perhaps people would detect dominance in simpler choices, such as A versus B = ($96, .9; $12, .10) and B versus C, and yet continue to violate it in the choice between A and C, which would violate transitivity. In this study we apply a true and error model to test intransitive preferences predicted by a partially effective editing mechanism. The results replicated previous findings quite well; however, the true and error model indicated that very few, if any, participants exhibited true intransitive preferences. In addition, violations of stochastic dominance showed a strong and systematic decrease in prevalence over time and violated response independence, thus violating key assumptions of standard random preference models for analysis of transitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-91
Number of pages17
JournalJudgment and Decision Making
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Dominance
  • Preference models
  • Stochastic dominance
  • Transitivity
  • True and error models


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