The Holt-Laury Task measures risk aversion. In this task, participants are given a set of paired lottery choices. These pairs are structured so that the lesser payoff in choice “A” is always worth more than the lesser payoff in choice “B” (e.g., the high payoff in “A” is $2.00 and the low payoff is $1.60, whereas the high payoff in “B” is $3.85 and the low payoff is $.10). Initially, the chance of the high payoff is 1/10 and the low payoff 9/10. With each step, the probability of the high payoff steadily increases by 1/10 (e.g., the second pair has a 2/10 probability for the high payoff and 8/10 for the low payoff). When the probability of the high payoff is low, choosing the “B” lottery is seen as the risky decision. As the probabilities change, the expected value of “B” over “A” increases. When this occurs, continuing to choose the “A” lottery indicates risk aversion.
The Holt-Laury Task measures risk aversion (Holt & Laury, 2002) using a lottery decision-making paradigm. Risk aversion important to consider when examining the intersection of self-regulation and decision-making, and could have implications for behavior and behavior change. This may also be an important mechanism to target in behavioral interventions by tapping into individual differences in risk aversion to motivate positive behavior change. This has been suggested by a related line of research in health communication and persuasion showing that, broadly, framing messages to emphasize gains associated with a given behavior is most effective when the risk of a negative outcome is low (i.e. discussing gains to reinforce the importance of prevention behaviors because people are risk averse when considering gains), but framing a message to emphasize losses if a behavior is not done is most effective when an individual perceives risk for a negative outcome (i.e. discussing potential losses to reinforce the importance of detection behaviors because people are more willing to take risks to avoid losses (Rothman, Bartels, Wlaschin, & Salovey, 2006).
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Text Citation: Holt, C. A. and Laury, S., Risk Aversion and Incentive Effects (April 2002). Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper Series No. 06-12
Text Citation: Rothman, A. J., Bartels, R. D., Wlaschin, J., & Salovey, P. (2006). The strategic use of gain‐and loss‐framed messages to promote healthy behavior: How theory can inform practice. Journal of communication, 56(s1).
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The Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) program seeks to promote basic research on the initiation, personalization and maintenance of behavior change. By integrating work across disciplines, this effort will lead to an improved understanding of the underlying principles of behavior change. The SOBC program aims to implement a mechanisms-focused, experimental medicine approach to behavior change research and to develop the tools required to implement such an approach. The experimental medicine approach involves: identifying an intervention target, developing measures to permit verification of the target, engaging the target through experimentation or intervention, and testing the degree to which target engagement produces the desired behavior change.
Within the SOBC Measures Repository, researchers have access to measures of mechanistic targets that have been (or are in the processing of being) validated by SOBC Research Network Members and other experts in the field. The SOBC Validation Process includes three important stages of evaluation for each proposed measure: Identification, Measurement, and Influence.
The first stage of validation requires a measure to be Identified within the field; there must be theoretical support for the specific measure of the proposed mechanistic target or potential mechanism of behavior change. This evidence may include references for the proposed measure, or theoretical support for the construct that the proposed measure is intended to assess. The second stage of validation requires demonstration that the level and change in level of the chosen mechanistic target can be Measured with the proposed measure (assay). For example, if the proposed measure is a questionnaire, the score on the measure should indicate the activity of the target process, and it must have strong psychometric properties. The third stage of validation requires demonstration that the measure can be Influenced; there must be evidence that the measured target is malleable and responsive to manipulation. Evidence relating to each stage includes at least one peer-reviewed publication or original data presentation (if no peer-reviewed research is available to support the claim) and is evaluated by SOBC Research Network Members and experts in the field.
Once a measure has gone through these three stages, it will then either be Validated or Not validated according to SOBC Research Network standards. If a measure is Validated, then change in the measured target was reliably associated with Behavior Change. If a measure is Not validated, then change in the measured target was not reliably associated with Behavior Change. Why would we share measures that are not validated? The SOBC Research Network values open, rigorous, and transparent research. Our goal is to make meaningful progress and develop replicable and effective interventions in behavior change science. Therefore, the SOBC sees value in providing other researchers in the field with information regarding measures that work and measures that fall short for specific targets. Further, a measure that is not validated for one target in one population may be validated in another target or population.
Want to learn more? For any questions regarding the SOBC Validation Process or Measures Repository, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Has the mechanism been identified as a potential target for behavior change? This section summarizes theoretical support for the mechanism.
Have the psychometric properties of this measure been assessed? This section includes information such as content validity, internal consistency, and test-retest reliability.
Has a study manipulation led to change in the mechanism? This section addresses evidence that this measure is modifiable by experimental manipulation or clinical intervention.
Has a change in this mechanism been associated with behavior change? This section addresses empirical evidence that causing change in the measure reliably produces subsequent behavior change.