NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

George Wu

Booth School of Business
University of Chicago
Chicago, IL

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

July 2014Reference-Dependent Preferences: Evidence from Marathon Runners
with Eric J. Allen, Patricia M. Dechow, Devin G. Pope: w20343
Models of reference-dependent preferences propose that individuals evaluate outcomes as gains or losses relative to a neutral reference point. We test for reference dependence in a large dataset of marathon finishing times (n = 9,524,071). Models of reference-dependent preferences such as prospect theory predict bunching of finishing times at reference points. We provide visual and statistical evidence that round numbers (e.g., a four-hour marathon) serve as reference points in this environment and as a result produce significant bunching of performance at these round numbers. Bunching is driven by planning and adjustments in effort provision near the finish line and cannot be explained by explicit rewards (e.g., qualifying for the Boston Marathon), peer effects, or institutional features ...

Published: Eric J. Allen & Patricia M. Dechow & Devin G. Pope & George Wu, 2017. "Reference-Dependent Preferences: Evidence from Marathon Runners," Management Science, vol 63(6), pages 1657-1672.

 
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