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Contingent preference for flexibility: eliciting beliefs from behavior


  • Sadowski, Philipp

    () (Department of Economics, Duke University)


Following Kreps (1979), I consider a decision maker who is uncertain about her future taste. This uncertainty leaves the decision maker with a preference for flexibility: When choosing among menus containing alternatives for future choice, she weakly prefers menus with additional alternatives. Standard representations accommodating this choice pattern cannot distinguish tastes (indexed by a subjective state space) and beliefs (a probability measure over the subjective states) as different concepts. I allow choice between menus to depend on objective states. My axioms provide a representation that uniquely identifies beliefs, provided objective states are sufficiently relevant for choice. I suggest this result as a choice theoretic foundation for the assumption, commonly made in the (incomplete) contracting literature, that contracting parties who know each others' ranking of contracts, also share beliefs about each others' future tastes in the face of unforeseen contingencies.

Suggested Citation

  • Sadowski, Philipp, 2013. "Contingent preference for flexibility: eliciting beliefs from behavior," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 8(2), May.
  • Handle: RePEc:the:publsh:884

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Larry G. Epstein, 2006. "An Axiomatic Model of Non-Bayesian Updating," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(2), pages 413-436.
    2. Higashi, Youichiro & Hyogo, Kazuya & Takeoka, Norio, 2009. "Subjective random discounting and intertemporal choice," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(3), pages 1015-1053, May.
    3. Kopylov, Igor, 2009. "Finite additive utility representations for preferences over menus," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(1), pages 354-374, January.
    4. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Unforeseen Contingencies and Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 83-114.
    5. Simon Grant & Edi Karni, 2005. "Why Does It Matter That Beliefs And Valuations Be Correctly Represented?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(3), pages 917-934, August.
    6. Ozdenoren, Emre, 2002. "Completing the State Space with Subjective States," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 531-539, August.
    7. Eddie Dekel & Barton L Lipman & Aldo Rustichini & Todd Sarver, 2007. "Representing Preferences with a Unique Subjective State Space: A Corrigendum -super-1," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(2), pages 591-600, March.
    8. David S. Ahn & Todd Sarver, 2013. "Preference for Flexibility and Random Choice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 341-361, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Karni, Edi & Safra, Zvi, 2016. "A theory of stochastic choice under uncertainty," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 164-173.
    2. Schenone, Pablo, 2016. "Identifying subjective beliefs in subjective state space models," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 59-72.
    3. Riella, Gil, 2013. "Preference for Flexibility and Dynamic Consistency," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(6), pages 2467-2482.

    More about this item


    Preference for flexibility; unique beliefs; unforeseen contingencies; incomplete contracts;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law


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