, Volume 66, Issue 4, pp 301-315

On the Application of Multiattribute Utility Theory to Models of Choice

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Abstract

Ellsberg (The Quarterly Journal of Economics 75, 643–669 (1961); Risk, Ambiguity and Decision, Garland Publishing (2001)) argued that uncertainty is not reducible to risk. At the center of Ellsberg’s argument lies a thought experiment that has come to be known as the three-color example. It has been observed that a significant number of sophisticated decision makers violate the requirements of subjective expected utility theory when they are confronted with Ellsberg’s three-color example. More generally, such decision makers are in conflict with either the ordering assumption or the independence assumption of subjective expected utility theory. While a clear majority of the theoretical responses to these violations have advocated maintaining ordering while relaxing independence, a persistent minority has advocated abandoning the ordering assumption. The purpose of this paper is to consider a similar dilemma that exists within the context of multiattribute models, where it arises by considering indeterminacy in the weighting of attributes rather than indeterminacy in the determination of probabilities as in Ellsberg’s example.