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A Model of Path-Dependence in Decisions over Multiple Propositions

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Decisions or arguments over multiple interconnected propositions are path-dependent if they depend on the order in which the propositions are considered. I develop a model of sequential decision or argumentation processes over multiple propositions, focussing on so-called modus ponens processes. I prove three main results. (1) Path-dependence occurs if and only if an individual’s or a group’s initial dispositions on a set of propositions violate deductive closure. (2) If we impose universal domain, anonymity and decisiveness on a (collective) modus ponens decision process, path-dependencies are unavoidable. (3) Path-dependence makes sequential decision or argumentation processes vulnerable to manipulation by changes of the decision-path and to manipulation by expression of untruthful views on the propositions. I discuss three escape-routes from the problem of path-dependence: the unanimity approach, the dictatorship approach, and the domain restriction approach.

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Paper provided by Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford in its series Economics Papers with number 2002-W15.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 20 May 2002
Handle: RePEc:nuf:econwp:0215
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