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Subjective Representation of Complexity

  • Nabil I. Al-Najjar
  • Ramon Casadesus-Masanell
  • Emre Ozdenoren

We study how individuals cope with the complexity of their environment by developing subjective models, or representations, to guide their predictions and decisions. Formally, an individual who believes his environment is deterministic, but too complex to permit tractable deterministic representation, builds a probablistic model embodying perceived regularities of that environment. In this model, the individual's inability to think through all possible instances of the problem is represented by an uncertainty about random states. The resulting behavior is fully rational in the traditional sense, yet consistent with an agent who believes his environment is too complex to warrant precise planing, forgoes finely detailed contingent rules in favor of vaguer plans, and expresses a preference for flexibility. We consider applications to time-inconsistent preferences, delegation, and two-player simultaneous games.

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Paper provided by Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science in its series Discussion Papers with number 1249.

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Date of creation: Jan 1999
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Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1249
Contact details of provider: Postal: Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science, Northwestern University, 580 Jacobs Center, 2001 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208-2014
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Web page: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/research/math/
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  1. Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo, 1994. "Incomplete Written Contracts: Undescribable States of Nature," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1085-1124, November.
  2. Eddie Dekel, 1997. "A Unique Subjective State Space for Unforeseen Contingencies," Discussion Papers 1202, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Geir B. Asheim, 1995. "Individual and Collective Time-Consistency," Discussion Papers 1128, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  4. Itzhak Gilboa & David Schmeidler, 1989. "Infinite Histories and Steady Orbits in Repeated Games," Discussion Papers 846, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  5. Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1995. "Case-Based Decision Theory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 605-39, August.
  6. Barton L. Lipman, 1993. "Information Processing and Bounded Rationality: A Survey," Working Papers 872, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  7. Dekel, Eddie & Lipman, Barton L. & Rustichini, Aldo, 1998. "Recent developments in modeling unforeseen contingencies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 523-542, May.
  8. Lipman, Barton L, 1999. "Decision Theory without Logical Omniscience: Toward an Axiomatic Framework for Bounded Rationality," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(2), pages 339-61, April.
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