Preference patterns for skewed gambles in rhesus monkeys

Caleb E. Strait, Benjamin Y. Hayden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


While standardmodels of risky choice account for the first and second statistical moments of reward outcome distributions (mean and variance, respectively), they often ignore the third moment, skewness. Determining a decisionmaker's attitude about skewness is useful because it can help constrain process models of the mental steps involved in risky choice.We measured three rhesus monkeys' preferences for gambles whose outcome distributions had almost identical means and variances but differed in skewness. We tested five distributions of skewness: strong negative, weak negative, normal, weak positive andstrong positive.Monkeys preferred positively skewed gambles to negatively skewed ones and preferred strongly skewed and normal (i.e. unskewed) gambles to weakly skewed ones. This pattern of preferences cannot be explained solely by monotonic deformations of the utility curve or any other popular single account, but can be accounted for by multiple interacting factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130902
JournalBiology letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 23 2013


  • Decision
  • Gambling
  • Macaque
  • Risk
  • Skewness


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