The consistency of visual attention to losses and loss sensitivity across valuation and choice

Nathaniel J.S. Ashby, Eldad Yechiam, Daniel Ben-Eliezer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sensitivity to losses has been found to vary greatly across individuals. One explanation for this variability is that for some losses garner more visual attention and are subsequently given more weight in decision-making processes. In three studies we examined whether biases in visual attention toward potential losses during valuation and choice were related to loss sensitivity, as well as the valuations provided and the choices made. In all studies, we find a positive relationship between estimated loss sensitivity and attention to losses for valuation, with increased attention to losses predicting decreased valuations. For choices, however, there was no robust relationship between attention and loss sensitivity or the choices made. In addition, preferences were not strongly consistent across tasks (i.e., valuations and choices did not robustly align), nor was the distribution of attention robustly related across tasks. Study 3 involved testing across separate sessions and found significant consistency in loss sensitivity and attention to losses across sessions for both choice and valuation. In sum, it appears that loss sensitivity varies across individuals, is differentially related to attention across tasks, and shows some consistency across time. Attention to losses also shows consistency across time, and its relationship with valuations appears much more robust than with choices; patterns of results that add to research suggesting that different cognitive processes underlie valuations and choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1791-1809
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Attention
  • Choice
  • Eye-tracking
  • Loss aversion
  • Valuation

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Developmental Neuroscience


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