Preference for equivalent random variables: A price for unbounded utilities

Journal of Mathematical Economics 45:329-340 (2009)
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Abstract

When real-valued utilities for outcomes are bounded, or when all variables are simple, it is consistent with expected utility to have preferences defined over probability distributions or lotteries. That is, under such circumstances two variables with a common probability distribution over outcomes – equivalent variables – occupy the same place in a preference ordering. However, if strict preference respects uniform, strict dominance in outcomes between variables, and if indifference between two variables entails indifference between their difference and the status quo, then preferences over rich sets of unbounded variables, such as variables used in the St. Petersburg paradox, cannot preserve indifference between all pairs of equivalent variables. In such circumstances, preference is not a function only of probability and utility for outcomes. Then the preference ordering is not defined in terms of lotteries.

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2009-01-28

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Teddy Seidenfeld
Carnegie Mellon University

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