Theory and Decision

, Volume 69, Issue 3, pp 417–438 | Cite as

Ambiguity, pessimism, and rational religious choice

Article

Abstract

Using a subclass of the α-maximin expected-utility preference model, in which the decision maker’s degree of ambiguity and degree of pessimism are each parameterized, we present a theory of religious choice in the Pascalian decision theory tradition, one that can resolve dilemmas, address the “many Gods objection,” and address the ambiguity inherent in religious choice. Parameterizing both the degree of ambiguity and the degree of pessimism allows one to examine how the two interact to impact choice, which is useful regardless of the application. Applying this model to religious choice is a move beyond subjective expected-utility theory, allowing us to show that a change in either the degree of ambiguity or the degree of pessimism can lead a decision maker to “convert” from one religion to another.

Keywords

Choice of religion α-maximin expected utility 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Arrow K.J., Hurwicz L. (1972). An optimality criterion for decision-making under ignorance. In: Carter C.F., Ford J.L. (eds). Uncertainty and expectations in economics: Essays in honour of G.L.S. Shackle. Oxford, Basil BlackwellGoogle Scholar
  2. Berger J., Berliner L. (1986) A definition of subjective probability. Annals of American Statistics 34: 199–205Google Scholar
  3. Calvin, J. (1552 [2007]). Treatises on the eternal predestination of God the secret providence of God: The consent, http://www.reformed.org/documents/calvin/calvin_predest_1.html#TRANSLATOR’S%20PREFACE.
  4. Camerer C.F. (1999). Ambiguity-aversion and non-additive probability: Experimental evidence, models and applications. In: Luini L. (ed). Uncertain decisions: Bridging theory and experiments. Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 51–79Google Scholar
  5. Camerer C. F., Weber M. (1992) Recent developments in modeling preferences: Uncertainty and ambiguity. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 5(4): 325–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chateauneuf A., Eichberger J., Grant S. (2007) Choice under uncertainty with the best and worst in mind: Neo-additive capacities. Journal of Economic Theory 137: 538–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen M. (1992) Security level potential level, expected utility: A three-criteria decision model under risk. Theory and Decision 33(2): 101–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eichberger J., Grant S., Kelsey D. (2008) Differentiating ambiguity: An expository note. Economic Theory 36(2): 327–336CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ellsberg D. (1961) Risk, ambiguity and the savage axioms. Quarterly Journal of Economics 75: 643–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Epstein L. G., Marinacci M., Seo K. (2007) Course contingencies and ambiguity. Theoretical Economics 2: 355–394Google Scholar
  11. Fox C. R., Tversky A. (1995) Ambiguity aversion and comparative ignorance. Quarterly Journal of Economics 110: 585–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gajdos T., Tallon J. M., Vergnaud J. C. (2004) Decision making with imprecise probabilistic information. Journal of Mathematical Economics 40: 647–681CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ghirardato P., Klibanoff P., Marinacci M. (1998) Additivity with multiple priors. Journal of Mathematical Economics 30: 405–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ghirardato P., Maccheroni F., Marinacci M. (2004) Differentiating ambiguity and ambiguity attitude. Journal of Economic Theory 118(2): 133–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gilboa, I., Postlewaite, A., & Scheidler, D. (2007). Rationality of belief or: Why Savage’s axioms are neither necessary nor sufficient for rationality, second version. PIER Working Paper No. 07-001.Google Scholar
  16. Gilboa I., Schmeidler D. (1989) Maxmin expected utility with non-unique prior. Journal of Mathematical Economics 18: 141–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hacking, I. (1994). The logic of Pascal’s wager (Chap. 3). In J. Jorden, (Ed.), Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s wager. London: Rowen and LittlefieldGoogle Scholar
  18. Iannaccone L. R. (1998) Introduction to the economics of religion. Journal of Economic Literature 36(3): 1465–1497Google Scholar
  19. Jaffray J.-Y., Philippe F. (1997) On the existence of subjective upper and lower probabilities. Mathematics of Operations Research 22(1): 165–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jorden, J. (1994a). Introduction. In: J. Jorden (Ed.), Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s wager. London: Rowen & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  21. Jorden, J. (1994b). The many Gods objection (Chap. 8). In: J. Jorden (Ed.), Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s wager. London: Rowen & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  22. Keynes J. M. (1921) A treatise on probability. Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Knight, F. (1921[1971]). Risk, uncertainty, and profit. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Ludwig A., Zimper A. (2006) Rational expectations and ambiguity: A comment on Abel (2002). Economics Bulletin 4(2): 1–15Google Scholar
  25. McClennan, E. F. (1994). Pascal’s wager and finite decision theory (Chap. 8). In: J. Jorden (Ed.), Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s wager. London: Rowen & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  26. Montgomery J. D. (1996) Contemplations on the economic approach to religious behavior. American Economic Review 86(2): 443–448Google Scholar
  27. Morgenstern, O., & von Neumann, J. (1944[2000]). Theory of games and economic behavior. Princeton University Press: Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  28. Morris, T. (1994). Wagering and evidence (Chap. 5). In J. Jorden (Ed.), Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s wager. London: Rowen & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  29. Olszewski W. (2007) Preferences over sets of lotteries. Review of Economic Studies 74: 567–595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pascal, B. (1670 [1958]). Pascal’s Pensées. New York, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.Google Scholar
  31. Savage L. J. (1954) The foundations of statistics. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Siniscalchi M. (2006) A behavioral characterization of plausible priors. Journal of Economic Theory 128: 91–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Smith, A. (1759[2000]). The theory of moral sentiments. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  34. Wikipedia. (2008). Encyclopedic entry for “Major Religious Groups” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_religious_groups.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NevadaRenoUSA

Personalised recommendations