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EMAC 2022 Annual

Opportunity Neglect

Published: May 24, 2022


Emily Prinsloo, Harvard Business School; Kate Barasz, ESADE; Leslie John, Harvard Business School; Michael Norton, Harvard Business School


Seven preregistered studies (N = 3189) conducted in the field, lab, and online document opportunity neglect: a tendency to reject opportunities with low probability of success, even when such opportunities have little to no objective costs. Participants rejected incentive-compatible gambles that had a low probability of winning, but positive expected value with no possibility of monetary loss, and non-trivial stakes (Studies 1, 2, and 4). They exhibited similar rejection patterns with everyday opportunities, such as applying for a competitive award (Study 5), and were even willing to incur costs to avoid taking such opportunities (Study 3). Across studies, between 18.0% to 56.4% of participants exhibited opportunity neglect. However, this behavior can be mitigated by highlighting that a very low probability is still larger than zero (Study 6 and 7).