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Coping With Ignorance: Unforeseen Contingencies and Non-Additive Uncertainty

  • Ghirardato, Paolo

In real-life decision problems, decision makers are never provided with the necessary background structure: the set of states of the world, the outcome space, the set of actions. They have to devise all these by themselves. I model the (static) choice problem of a decision maker (DM) who is aware that her perception of the decision problem is too coarse, as for instance when there might be unforeseen contingencies. I make a "bounded rationality'' assumption on the way the DM deals with this difficulty, and then I show that imposing standard subjective expected utility axioms on her preferences only implies that they can be represented by a (generalized) expectation with respect to a non-additive measure, called a belief function. However, the axioms do have strong implications for how the DM copes with the type of ignorance described above. Finally, I show that some decision rules that have been studied in the literature can be obtained as a special case of the model presented here (though they have to be interpreted differently).

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Paper provided by California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences in its series Working Papers with number 945.

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Date of creation: May 1996
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Handle: RePEc:clt:sswopa:945
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