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Why Would Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?

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  • Arthur J. Robson

Abstract

Consider the possible biological origin of the expected utility criterion. On the one hand, if individuals possess a utility function stemming from the rate of production of expected offspring, they can rapidly adapt to arbitrary unknown distributions in a bandit problem. Embedding such a utility function in a simple rule of thumb involving no beliefs about probabilities leads to evolutionary optimality. On the other hand, if any rule whatever yields evolutionary optimality for all distributions, this precise utility function must be implicit, in a revealed preference sense.

Suggested Citation

  • Arthur J. Robson, 2001. "Why Would Nature Give Individuals Utility Functions?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 900-929, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:109:y:2001:i:4:p:900-929
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    1. Robson, Arthur J., 1996. "A Biological Basis for Expected and Non-expected Utility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 397-424, February.
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