Shifts of Reference Points for Framing of Strategic Decisions and Changing Risk-Return Associations

Previous results on nonlinear risk-return associations, predicted by prospect theory, are replicated with mean quadratic differences instead of variance as a measure of risk. In contrast to assumptions of these studies, results with a sample from the COMPUSTAT-database provide evidence that at least a minority of firms shift to individual reference levels, which are represented here through levels of minimal risk. Further, changes of environmental conditions as an alternative explanation for switching risk-return relationships are tested against prospect theory predictions. It is shown that risk-return relationships remain stable as long as the relative position to the individual reference level is stable. This explains switching risk-return relationships better than changing environmental conditions.

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