Relevance of prospect theory to transport choice modeling: a rejoinder

Harry Timmermans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


I was pleased to see that van de Kaa spelled out my comments on prospect theory and must have spent quite some time tracing back the references and conducting some additional qualitative research. The very purpose of my contribution to the workshop and the paper was to stimulate discussion and it seems to have succeeded in that regard. Unfortunately, the result of van de Kaa's effort is a largely unstructured piece of work that touches on many different issues. A detailed response to each point (many qualify for such a response) would take many pages and the same unstructured set-up and I have no desire to do so as many points would require a detailed contextual expose, justification of interpretations and elaboration. This rejoinder therefore addresses the main train of thought. Even after careful re-reading, however, I have difficulty understanding the precise motivation, tone and intention of his reaction. It is clear that he identified mistakes in the references, signaling that these mistakes were not filtered out by the database in my group, nor by the reviewers, not by any systems that the journal itself may have. I stand corrected - may the reader benefit. Beyond that, van de Kaa's main concern seems to be that "most critical comments in the paper appeared to be [my] personal opinions without solid theoretical or empirical support". I have no need to contend this qualification: the paper is exactly that - nothing more, nothing less! In fact, on page 370, 3rd paragraph, I explicitly mentioned the context of the paper: I was invited for the workshop that led to the special issue to voice critical comments about prospect theory to stimulate the discussion. The criticisms were therefore phrased such as to trigger the audience to critically think about the theory and the way it has been applied in travel behavior research to date, to provide input to the discussion and/or conduct empirical research (to the extent possible as not all arguments lend themselves for empirical research). Illustrative examples were therefore also based where possible on research of other attendees. The arguments are not based on any thorough historical exegesis of (accumulated) prospect theory and a reconstruction of the development of the theory and its (non-)reception in different disciplines. Rather, it is based on my personal mental representation of the pros and cons of this theory, developed across decades from my days in marketing and consumer science based on earlier discussions in workshops, dozens of papers about prospect theory that I processed as editor or conference organizer, and independent critical thinking. Considering this nature of the invitation, no attempt was made to add nuances or to be comprehensive - it is not a resource paper, not a detailed literature review, not a meta analysis. This should sufficiently qualify the comments made in section 3 of van de Kaa's comments and put these into the right context. I fail to see however that the fact the paper expresses personal opinions can be turned into support for the relevance of prospect theory to travel choice modeling as the title of van de Kaa's comments suggests. Implicitly, van de Kaa seems to argue that only a detailed historical account, based on solid (which is not defined) theoretical or empirical support is academic, and anything else is inferior. As this touches upon a methodological discussion and goes beyond the scope of this journal, I will not comment on the argument in this rejoinder. Let me suffice to say that I disagree, and that it would be counterproductive to reflections about the state of the art and formulating research agendas. Again, the paper was not meant to give a summary overview of the balance of evidence of empirical support of prospect theory - it was meant to stimulate thinking about its (ir)relevance to different aspects of travel behavior research....

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-462
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2012


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