Ambiguity aversion: The explanatory power of indeterminate probabilities

Synthese 172 (1):37 - 55 (2010)
Daniel Ellsberg presented in Ellsberg (The Quarterly Journal of Economics 75:643–669, 1961) various examples questioning the thesis that decision making under uncertainty can be reduced to decision making under risk. These examples constitute one of the main challenges to the received view on the foundations of decision theory offered by Leonard Savage in Savage (1972). Craig Fox and Amos Tversky have, nevertheless, offered an indirect defense of Savage. They provided in Fox and Tversky (1995) an explanation of Ellsberg’s two-color problem in terms of a psychological effect: ambiguity aversion . The ‘comparative ignorance’ hypothesis articulates how this effect works and explains why it is important to an understanding of the typical pattern of responses associated with Ellsberg’s two-color problem. In the first part of this article we challenge Fox and Tversky’s explanation. We present first an experiment that extends Ellsberg’s two-color problem where certain predictions of the comparative ignorance hypothesis are not confirmed. In addition the hypothesis seems unable to explain how the subjects resolve trade-offs between security and expected pay-off when vagueness is present. Ellsberg offered an explanation of the typical behavior elicited by his examples in terms of these trade-offs and in section three we offer a model of Ellsberg’s trade-offs. The model takes seriously the role of imprecise probabilities in explaining Ellsberg’s phenomenon. The so-called three-color problem was also considered in Fox and Tversky (1995). We argue that Fox and Tversky’s analysis of this case breaks a symmetry with their analysis of the two-color problem. We propose a unified treatment of both problems and we present a experiment that confirms our hypothesis.
Keywords Ambiguity aversion  Imprecise probabilities  Ellsberg’s paradox
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,209
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Isaac Levi (1974). On Indeterminate Probabilities. Journal of Philosophy 71 (13):391-418.
Isaac Levi (1978). On Indeterminate Probabilities. In A. Hooker, J. J. Leach & E. F. McClennen (eds.), Journal of Philosophy. D. Reidel 233--261.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

109 ( #40,522 of 1,941,042 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

19 ( #34,299 of 1,941,042 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.