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Accuracy vs. Simplicity: A Complex Trade-Off


  • E. Aragones
  • I. Gilboa
  • A. Postlewaite
  • D. Schmeidler


Inductive learning aims at finding general rules that hold true in a database. Targeted learning seeks rules for the predictions of the value of a variable based on the values of others, as in the case of linear or non-parametric regression analysis. Non-targeted learning finds regularities without a specific prediction goal. We model the product of non-targeted learning as rules that state that a certain phenomenon never happens, or that certain conditions necessitate another. For all types of rules, there is a trade-off between the rule's accuracy and its simplicity. Thus rule selection can be viewed as a choice problem, among pairs of degree of accuracy and degree of complexity. However, one cannot in general tell what is the feasible set in the accuracy-complexity space. Formally, we show that finding out whether a point belongs to this set is computationally hard. In particular, in the context of linear regression, finding a small set of variables that obtain a certain value of R2 is computationally hard. Computational complexity may explain why a person is not always aware of rules that, if asked, she would find valid. This, in turn, may explain why one can change other people's minds (opinions, beliefs) without providing new information.
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  • E. Aragones & I. Gilboa & A. Postlewaite & D. Schmeidler, 2003. "Accuracy vs. Simplicity: A Complex Trade-Off," Levine's Working Paper Archive 506439000000000185, David K. Levine.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:506439000000000185

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Itzhak Gilboa & David Schmeidler, 2003. "Inductive Inference: An Axiomatic Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(1), pages 1-26, January.
    2. Itzhak Gilboa & David Schmeidler, 2002. "Cognitive Foundations of Probability," Mathematics of Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 27(1), pages 65-81, February.
    3. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-279, April.
    4. Dekel, Eddie & Lipman, Barton L. & Rustichini, Aldo, 1998. "Recent developments in modeling unforeseen contingencies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 523-542, May.
    5. Aragones, Enriqueta & Gilboa, Itzhak & Postlewaite, Andrew & Schmeidler, David, 2014. "Rhetoric and analogies," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 1-10.
    6. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 1994. "Incomplete Written Contracts: Undescribable States of Nature," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1085-1124.
    7. Gilboa,Itzhak & Schmeidler,David, 2001. "A Theory of Case-Based Decisions," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521802345, March.
    8. Dekel, Eddie & Lipman, Barton L & Rustichini, Aldo, 2001. "Representing Preferences with a Unique Subjective State Space," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 891-934, July.
    9. Kreps, David M, 1979. "A Representation Theorem for "Preference for Flexibility"," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 565-577, May.
    10. Itzhak Gilboa, 1993. "Hempel, Good and Bayes," Discussion Papers 1045, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    11. Bray, Margaret M & Savin, Nathan E, 1986. "Rational Expectations Equilibria, Learning, and Model Specification," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(5), pages 1129-1160, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabaix, Xavier & Laibson, David Isaac & Moloche, Guillermo & Stephen, Weinberg, 2003. "The allocation of attention: theory and evidence," MPRA Paper 47339, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson & Guillermo Moloche & Stephen Weinberg, 2005. "Information Acquisition: Experimental Analysis of a Boundedly Rational Model," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000480, UCLA Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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