Opportunity Neglect: An Aversion to Low-Probability Gains

Emily Prinsloo, Kate Barasz, Leslie K. John, Michael I. Norton

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review


Seven preregistered studies (N = 2,890, adult participants) conducted in the field, in the lab, and online documented opportunity neglect: a tendency to reject opportunities with low probability of success even when they come with little or no objective cost (e.g., time, money, reputation). Participants rejected a low-probability opportunity in an everyday context (Study 1). Participants also rejected incentive-compatible gambles with positive expected value—for both goods (Study 2) and money (Studies 3–7)—even with no possibility of monetary loss and nontrivial rewards (e.g., a 1% chance at $99). Participants rejected low-probability opportunities more frequently than high-probability opportunities with equal expected value (Study 3). Although taking some real-life opportunities comes with costs, we show that people are even willing to incur costs to opt out of low-probability opportunities (Study 4). Opportunity neglect can be mitigated by highlighting that rejecting an opportunity is equivalent to choosing a zero probability of success (Studies 6–7).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1857-1866
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • choice
  • decision making
  • motivation
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • risk taking


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