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Polarization and Ambiguity


  • Sandeep Baliga
  • Eran Hanany
  • Peter Klibanoff


We offer a theory of polarization as an optimal response to ambiguity. Suppose individual A's beliefs first-order stochastically dominate individual B's. They observe a common signal. They exhibit polarization if A's posterior dominates her prior and B's prior dominates her posterior. Given agreement on conditional signal likelihoods, we show that polarization is impossible under Bayesian updating or after observing extreme signals. However, we also show that polarization can arise after intermediate signals as ambiguity averse individuals implement their optimal prediction strategies. We explore when this polarization will occur and the logic underlying it.

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  • Sandeep Baliga & Eran Hanany & Peter Klibanoff, 2013. "Polarization and Ambiguity," Discussion Papers 1558, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1558

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    2. Alexander Zimper & Alexander Ludwig, 2009. "On attitude polarization under Bayesian learning with non-additive beliefs," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 181-212, October.
    3. Yildiz, Muhamet & Acemoglu, Daron & Chernozhukov, Victor, 2016. "Fragility of asymptotic agreement under Bayesian learning," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(1), January.
    4. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-587, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. BenoƮt, Jean-Pierre & Dubra, Juan, 2014. "A Theory of Rational Attitude Polarization," MPRA Paper 60129, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Chen, Daniel L. & Sethi, Jasmin, 2016. "Insiders, Outsiders, and Involuntary Unemployment: Sexual Harrassment Exacerbates Gender Inequality," IAST Working Papers 16-44, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    3. Chen, Daniel L. & Levonyan, Vardges & Yeh, Susan, 2016. "Policies Affect Preferences: Evidence from Random Variation in Abortion Jurisprudence," IAST Working Papers 16-58, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).

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    Ambiguity aversion; Ellsberg; beliefs; updating; dynamic consistency;

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