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Gamification tends to increase investment risk-taking, according to behavioural finance experiment conducted for the AMF
22 November 2023

Gamification tends to increase investment risk-taking, according to behavioural finance experiment conducted for the AMF

A university laboratory experiment conducted at the request of the Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), under the supervision of Marie-Hélène Broihanne, a professor at Strasbourg University and member of the AMF's Scientific Advisory Board, has shown that stimulus techniques derived from video games applied to investment can encourage people to take greater risks. 

The Experimental Economics Laboratory of Strasbourg (LEES) at the University of Strasbourg carried out this experiment in May and June 2023 with 366 students from various disciplines, who were put in an investment situation. Sitting in a single-user cubicle in front of a computer, participants were given an initial sum of €22 to spend over 16 sessions and were asked to choose the proportion to be invested in risky assets and the proportion to be kept risk-free. They also had the option of automatically copying the decisions of the participant with the best performance in previous periods.

The aim of this experiment was to examine the impact of different types of "gamification" stimuli (virtual badges or confetti) on the risk-taking behaviour of young investors in their financial decisions and to identify the profiles that are more or less susceptible to this environment, which uses the codes of video games in the investment world.

"The experiment on the impact of gamification on investor behaviour is a first in France. The choice of a laboratory experiment provides solid results that show that these techniques are not neutral. Our aim is to inform the thinking of regulators," said Marie-Hélène Broihanne, Full Professor of Management Sciences at the Management and Economics Research Laboratory (LaRGE, EM Strasbourg).

The results of this experiment show an increase in risk-taking when participants receive a trophy that rewards risky investment, and conversely a decrease in risk-taking when the trophy rewards safe asset allocations. Stimulation by displaying confetti accompanied by a message of encouragement or congratulations on the screen does not produce a material effect. The "nudge" power of symbolic trophies plays an important role in changing risk-taking behaviour, but the "social" dimension of sharing participants' rankings does not clearly accentuate this effect. It also appears that in a context where it is possible to copy the decisions of the best performer, 20% of participants choose copy trading. This environment encourages risk-taking by all participants, including those who chose not to copy. In terms of profile, the only variable is gender: women are less receptive to gamification elements, but have a greater tendency to copy.

"This academic experiment has taught us a great deal about the impact of gamification on investor behaviour. Investing is not a game, and gamification must not make us forget the risks. The AMF is paying close attention to this," said AMF Chair Marie-Anne Barbat-Layani.

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