The topology of fear
For many years experimental observations have raised questions about the rationality of economic agents--for example, the Allais Paradox or the Equity Premium Puzzle. The problem is a narrow notion of rationality that disregards fear. This article extends the notion of rationality with new axioms of choice under uncertainty and the decision criteria they imply (Chichilnisky, G., 1996a. An axiomatic approach to sustainable development. Social Choice andWelfare 13, 257-321; Chichilnisky, G., 2000. An axiomatic approach to choice under uncertainty with Catastrophic risks. Resource and Energy Economics; Chichilnisky, G., 2002. Catastrophical Risk. Encyclopedia of Environmetrics, vol. 1. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chicester). In the absence of catastrophes, the old and the new approach coincide, and both lead to standard expected utility. A sharp difference emerges when facing rare events with important consequences, or catastrophes. Theorem 1 establishes that a classic axiom of choice under uncertainty - Arrow's Monotone Continuity axiom, or its relatives introduced by DeGroot, Villegas, Hernstein and Milnor - postulate rational behavior that is [`]insensitive' to rare events as defined in (Chichilnisky, G., 1996a. An axiomatic approach to sustainable development. Social Choice andWelfare 13, 257-321; Chichilnisky, G., 2000. An axiomatic approach to choice under uncertainty with Catastrophic risks. Resource and Energy Economics; Chichilnisky, G., 2002. Catastrophical Risk. Encyclopedia of Environmetrics, vol. 1. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Chicester). Theorem 2 replaces this axiom with another that allows extreme responses to extreme events, and characterizes the implied decision criteria as a combination of expected utility with extremal responses. Theorems 1 and 2 offer a new understanding of rationality consistent with previously unexplained observations about decisions involving rare and catastrophic events, decisions involving fear, the Equity Premium Puzzle, [`]jump diffusion' processes and [`]heavy tails', and it agrees with (Debreu, G., 1953. Valuation equilibrium and Pareto optimum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 40, 588-592) formulation of market behavior and his proof of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand theorem.
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