Abstract: We investigate the possibility that a decision-maker prefers to avoid making a decision and instead delegates it to an external device, e.g., a coin flip. In a series of experiments our participants often choose stochastically dominated lottery between outcomes, contradicting most theories of choice such as expected utility. A large data set on university applications in Germany shows a choice pattern that is consistent with a preference for randomization, entailing substantial allocative consequences. The findings are consistent with our theory of responsibility aversion.
Georg W. further writes to me as follows:
"Arguably the most important and most interesting strategic motives in the German application system appear because of the multi-stage nature of the mechansim: Applicants need to be careful that they are not matched in the first stage of the mechanism, in cases where they plausibly have a chance to get a better match on subsequent stages."