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The two faces of independence: betweenness and homotheticity

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  • Daniel R. Burghart
  • Thomas Epper
  • Ernst Fehr

Abstract

Many studies document failures of expected utility’s key assumption, the independence axiom. Here, we show that independence can be decomposed into two distinct axioms – betweenness and homotheticity – and that these two axioms are necessary and sufficient for independence. Thus, independence can fail because homotheticity, betweenness, or both are violated. Most research has focused on models that assume subjects will violate both axioms or models that assume subjects will satisfy betweenness but violate homotheticity. Our decomposition of independence into betweenness and homotheticity allows us to show, however, that a significant share of subjects obey homotheticity but violate betweenness. Using data from a revealed preference experiment, and without making any parametric assumptions, we show that 1/3 of participants belong in the neglected class of preferences that violate independence but satisfy homotheticity, indicating that betweenness is violated. Another 1/3 of participants satisfy independence. The remaining 1/3 fail both independence and homotheticity and may also fail betweenness. Our results provide useful constraints on future modeling attempts by highlighting, in a non-parametric way, an empirically relevant class of preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel R. Burghart & Thomas Epper & Ernst Fehr, 2014. "The two faces of independence: betweenness and homotheticity," ECON - Working Papers 179, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:179
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel R. Burghart & Thomas Epper & Ernst Fehr, 2015. "The ambiguity triangle: uncovering fundamental patterns of behavior under uncertainty," ECON - Working Papers 196, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    2. Daniel R. Burghart & Thomas Epper & Ernst Fehr, 2020. "The uncertainty triangle – Uncovering heterogeneity in attitudes towards uncertainty," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 60(2), pages 125-156, April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Revealed preferences; risk preferences; expected utility; independence axiom; betweenness; homotheticity; consumer choice; aggregation;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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