IS STUDENTS’ LOSS AVERSION CONTEXT-DEPENDANT?
The psychological concept of loss aversion implies that the distance of a result from a reference point can be evaluated differently depending on whether the distance is positive or negative; concretely, the effect -on a certain dimension- of negative surprises is stronger than that of positive surprises of equal intensity (e.g. for a student, achieving a worse than expected academic performance would have a much stronger effect on his/her (dis)satisfaction than obtaining a better than expected grade): let’s suppose that a student expects a grade of 7 in a subject but actually obtains an 8, and another student, who also expects a 7, obtains a 6. In both cases the difference is of one point, but the question is whether the effect on satisfaction (in the first case) and on dissatisfaction (in the second case) will be the same. According to loss aversion, the impact on dissatisfaction of a result one point less than expected is greater than the impact on satisfaction of a result one point higher than expected. Although loss aversion is a well-established finding, some authors have demonstrated that it can be moderated -diminished, to be precise- or even reversed. Within this line of research, we propose music as a moderator of students’ loss aversion: can a certain musical stimulus influence or moderate the asymmetric effects of positive and negative surprises?
Music can influence the attitudes of people as well as their emotions and reactions to a certain stimulus. Various authors use music as a way of inducing students’ states of mind and literature shows that music can alter their emotional responses. Thus, we can ask whether music can moderate the potential asymmetric effects of positive and negative surprises in such a way that the satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) is higher or lower than it would have been in the absence of music. Consequently, the aim of this research is to test whether the students’ loss averse emotional response to their performance can be moderated by different musical stimuli.
The empirical application shows that the reactions to negative surprises in the “heavy music” and “no music” groups are more intense than their reactions to positive surprises (which favors the loss aversion phenomenon). However, this result is not replicated in the “classical music” group, as the music seems to positively augment positive surprises (they receive them with more joy) and relax people faced with negative surprises (it acts as a salve). In fact, we find evidence of reversed loss aversion for this condition.
As for implications, the study of factors determining the perceptions of students is vital to find the way in which they process information, which will lead to certain behavior. In particular, knowing the elements that can favor not only the academic performance of students but also their attitude towards certain results is fundamental: students’ self-efficacy beliefs can be enhanced when students alter their emotions and thoughts (personal factors), when their teachers use effective classroom structures (environmental factors), and when students improve their self-regulatory practices (behavior). Note that this study demonstrates that musical stimuli can modify the perceptions of a certain result when it is compared to a reference point: the effects of “positive” and “negative” surprises are higher or lower, not only in function of the size of these surprises, but also according to the musical stimulus received.