The Psychological Concept of Subjective Probability: A Measurement-Theoretic View

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Abstract

A point of view is presented concerning the psychological concept of subjective probability, both to study its relation to the corresponding mathematical and philosophical concepts and to provide a framework for the rigorous investigation of problems unique to psychology. In order to do this the empirical implications of axiom systems for measurement are discussed first, relying primarily on Krantz’s work, with special emphasis, however, on some similarities and differences between psychological and physical variables. The psychological variable of uncertainty is then examined in this light, and it is concluded that few, if any, current theories of subjective probability are satisfactory when viewed from this perspective, including those deriving from the mathematical work in the axiomatic foundations of probability. This might appear to pose difficulties for applications to real problems of normative decision theory when those applications require numerical probability judgments from individuals. Two possible solutions are discussed briefly

This work was supported in part by a PHS Grant No. MH-10006 from the National Institute of Mental Health and in part by a University Science Development Program Grant No. GU-2059 from the National Science Foundation. Mr. Harold D. Delaney, Mr. Richard Haden, and Prof. Amnon Rapoport critically read an earlier draft of this paper and their comments are gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are due Prof. David H. Krantz who pointed out a number of errors, both stylistic and substantive, in a previous version of thie paper.