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Economic Rationality: Investigating the Links between Uncertainty, Complexity, and Sophistication


  • Ilke Aydogan
  • Loic Berger
  • Valentina Bosetti


We report on a laboratory experiment measuring the preferences of a unique pool of risk professionals over various sources of uncertainty that entail different degrees of complexity. We then compare these preferences with those of a control group composed of social science students to obtain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms driving behaviors under risk and ambiguity. We find that (1) ambiguity aversion is robust to subjects’ degree of sophistication in probabilistic reasoning and background. (2) An association exists between attitudes toward ambiguity and compound risk for students/less sophisticated subjects, and is mainly explained by their attitudes toward complexity. Such an association does not exist for risk professionals/more sophisticated subjects. (3) The failure to reduce compound risk emerges as a sufficent, but not necessary, condition for ambiguity non-neutrality. These findings suggest that decision making under ambiguity cannot be reduced to decision making under risk. Keywords: Ambiguity aversion, reduction of compound lotteries, non-expected utility, model uncertainty, model misspecification JEL Codes: D81

Suggested Citation

  • Ilke Aydogan & Loic Berger & Valentina Bosetti, 2019. "Economic Rationality: Investigating the Links between Uncertainty, Complexity, and Sophistication," Working Papers 653, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:653

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    Cited by:

    1. Calford, Evan M., 2020. "Uncertainty aversion in game theory: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 720-734.
    2. Simon Dietz & Falk Niehörster, 2021. "Pricing ambiguity in catastrophe risk insurance," The Geneva Risk and Insurance Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Association for the Study of Insurance Economics (The Geneva Association), vol. 46(2), pages 112-132, September.
    3. Ilke AYDOGAN & Loïc BERGER & Valentina BOSETTI & Ning LIU, 2022. "Three layers of uncertainty," Working Papers 2022-iRisk-01, IESEG School of Management.
    4. Dietz, Simon & Niehörster, Falk, 2020. "Pricing ambiguity in catastrophe risk insurance," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 106116, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Ilke Aydogan & Loïc Berger & Valentina Bosetti & Ning Liu, 2022. "Three layers of uncertainty," Working Papers hal-03031751, HAL.
    6. repec:hal:journl:hal-03031751 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Kellner, Christian & Le Quement, Mark T. & Riener, Gerhard, 2022. "Reacting to ambiguous messages: An experimental analysis," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 360-378.

    More about this item


    ambiguity aversion; reduction of compound lotteries; non-expected utility; model uncertainty; model misspecification jel codes: d81;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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