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Past Issue • Jul-Sep 2015

The Psychology of Decision Making in Acquisitions

Decision makers become risk-seeking both when they have enjoyed greater gains in the past and when they have suffered losses previously, albeit for different reasons. This study by Professor Jaya Dixit of the Indian School of Business and Professor M V S Kumar of the Lally School of Management & Technology, New York, shows that they become risk-seeking in the realm of prior gains because they code potential losses as reductions in the previous gains versus absolute losses. They become risk-seeking in the realm of prior losses when they see possibility of breaking even. However it is the reverse if their survival is threatened.  Acquisitions are significant investments by firms where the risks are said to derive due to reasons anywhere from incorrect valuation, to implementation. At the heart of these risks is the existence of uncertainty and information asymmetry (between target and the acquirer, between the stock market and the firms involved in the acquisition). These risks in acquisitions have been studied mostly through an economic lens. However, researchers have also shown that psychological or behavioural factors matter in acquisition decision making. For example a study by Mathew Hayward and Donald Hambrick shows that overconfident CEOs pay greater acquisition premium which leads to shareholder losses.


  • Jaya-Dixit

    Jaya Dixit

    Assistant Professor of Strategy at the Indian School of Business
  • M-V-S-Kumar

    M V S Kumar

    Associate Professor of Strategy at the Lally School of Management, New York
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