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A Bayesian Approach to Uncentainty Aversion

  • Yoram Halevy
  • Vincent Feltkamp

The Ellsberg paradox demonstrates that peoples belief over uncertainevents might not be representable by subjective probability. We relate this paradox to other commonly observed anomalies, suchas a rejection of the backward induction prediction in the one-shot Ultimatum Game. We argue that the pattern common to theseobservations is that the behavior is governed by rational rules. These rules have evolved and are optimal within the repeated andconcurrent environments that people usually encounter. When an individual relies on these rules to analyzeone-shot or single circumstances, paradoxes emerge. We show that when a risk averse individualhas a Bayesian prior and uses a rule which is optimal for simultaneous and positively correlatedambiguous risks to evaluate a single vague circumstance, his behavior will exhibit uncertaintyaversion. Thus, the behavior predicted by Ellsberg may be explained within the Bayesian expectedutility paradigm.

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Paper provided by Penn Economics Department in its series Penn CARESS Working Papers with number f17f3e2c6ad93e4b53fd58fc9b88a886.

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Handle: RePEc:cla:penntw:f17f3e2c6ad93e4b53fd58fc9b88a886
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  1. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1970. "Increasing risk: I. A definition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 225-243, September.
  2. Camerer, Colin & Weber, Martin, 1992. " Recent Developments in Modeling Preferences: Uncertainty and Ambiguity," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 325-70, October.
  3. Gilboa, Itzhak, 1987. "Expected utility with purely subjective non-additive probabilities," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 65-88, February.
  4. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 141-153, April.
  5. David Schmeidler, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7662, David K. Levine.
  6. Uzi Segal, 1985. "The Ellsberg Paradox and Risk Aversion: An Anticipated Utility Approach," UCLA Economics Working Papers 362, UCLA Department of Economics.
  7. Yaari, Menahem E, 1987. "The Dual Theory of Choice under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(1), pages 95-115, January.
  8. Sarin, Rakesh K & Wakker, Peter, 1992. "A Simple Axiomatization of Nonadditive Expected Utility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(6), pages 1255-72, November.
  9. Sarin, Rakesh & Wakker, Peter, 1997. "A Single-Stage Approach to Anscombe and Aumann's Expected Utility," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 399-409, July.
  10. Machina,Mark & Schmeidler,David, 1991. "A more robust definition of subjective probability," Discussion Paper Serie A 365, University of Bonn, Germany.
  11. Larry Epstein, 1997. "Uncertainty Aversion," Working Papers epstein-97-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  12. Aumann, Robert J., 1997. "Rationality and Bounded Rationality," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 21(1-2), pages 2-14, October.
  13. Hoffman, Elizabeth & McCabe, Kevin & Smith, Vernon L, 1996. "Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 653-60, June.
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