Date of Award

Winter 12-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Elisabet Rutstrom

Second Advisor

Glenn Harrison

Third Advisor

Vjollca Sadiraj

Fourth Advisor

Spencer Banzhaf

Abstract

In the area of transportation policy, congestion pricing has been used to alleviate traffic congestion in metropolitan areas. The focus of Chapter 1 is to examine drivers’ perceived risk of traffic delay as one determinant of reactions to congestion pricing. The experiment reported in this essay recruits commuters from the Atlanta and Orlando metropolitan areas to participate in a naturalistic experiment where they are asked to make repeated route decisions in a driving simulator. Chapter 1 examines belief formation and adjustments under an endogenous information environment where information about a route can be obtained only conditional on taking the route. If the subjects arrive to the destination late, i.e. beyond an assigned time threshold, they are faced with a discrete (flat) penalty. In contrast, Chapter 2 examines subjective beliefs in a setting where the penalty for a late arrival is continuous, such that a longer delay incurs additional penalty on the driver. The primary research question is: does belief formation differ when the late penalty is induced as a continuous amount compared to when it is induced as a discrete amount? In particular, will we observe a difference in learning across the range of congestion probabilities under different penalty settings? In the continuous penalty setting, we do not observe a difference in learning across the range of congestion probabilities. In contrast, in the discrete penalty setting we observe significant belief adjustments in the lowest congestion risk scenario.

In Chapter 3 the “source method” is used to examine how uncertainty aversion differs across events that have the same underlying objective probabilities but are presented under varying degrees of uncertainty. Subjects are presented with three lottery tasks that rank in order of increasing uncertainty. Given the choices observed in each task a source function is estimated jointly with risk attitudes under different probability weighting specifications of the source function. Results from the Prelec probability weighting suggest that, as the degree of uncertainty increases, subjects display increased pessimism; in contrast, the Tversky-Kahneman (1992) and the Power probability weightings detect no such difference. Thus, the conclusion regarding uncertainty aversion are contingent on which probability weighting specification is assumed for the source function.

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