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Better may be worse: Some monotonicity results and paradoxes in discrete choice

  • Mattsson, Lars-Göran

    ()

    (Department of Infrastructure)

  • Voorneveld, Mark

    ()

    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

  • Weibull, Jörgen W.

    ()

    (Department of Economics)

It is not unusual in real-life that one has to choose among finitely many alternatives when the merit of each alternative is not perfectly known. This may be the case when an individual chooses school, doctor or pension plan, or when a firm chooses between alternative R&D projects. Instead of observing the actual utilities of the alternatives at hand, one typically observes more or less precise signals that are positively correlated with these utilities. In addition, the decision-maker may, at some cost or disutility of effort, choose to increase the precision of these signals, for example by way of a careful study or the hiring of expertise. We here develop a model of such decision problems. We begin by showing that a version of the monotone likelihood-ratio property is sufficient, and also essentially necessary, for the optimality of the heuristic decision rule to always choose the alternative with the highest signal. Secondly, we show that it is not always advantageous to face alternatives with higher utilities, a non-monotonicity result that holds even if the decision-maker optimally chooses the signal precision. We finally establish an operational first-order condition for the optimal precision level in a canonical class of decision-problems, and we show that the optimal precision level may be discontinuous in the precision cost.

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Paper provided by Stockholm School of Economics in its series SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance with number 558.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 09 Mar 2004
Date of revision: 21 Apr 2004
Publication status: Published in Theory and Decision , 2007, pages 121-151.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0558
Contact details of provider: Postal: The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, 113 83 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-(0)8-736 90 00
Fax: +46-(0)8-31 01 57
Web page: http://www.hhs.se/
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  1. Eytan Sheshinski, 2000. "Bounded Rationality and Socially Optimal Limits on Choice in a Self-Selection Model," Discussion Paper Series dp330, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, revised Nov 2002.
  2. James A. Mirrlees., 1987. "Economic Policy and Nonrational Behaviour," Economics Working Papers 8728, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. Chade, Hector & Schlee, Edward, 2002. "Another Look at the Radner-Stiglitz Nonconcavity in the Value of Information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 421-452, December.
  4. Kihlstrom, Richard, 1974. "A general theory of demand for information about product quality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 413-439, August.
  5. Kihlstrom, Richard E, 1974. "A Bayesian Model of Demand for Information About Product Quality," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 15(1), pages 99-118, February.
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