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Dynamic decision-making in uncertain environments II. Allais paradox in human behavior

Yoshimura, Jin, Ito, Hiromu, Miller, Donald G., III, Tainaka, Kei-ichi
Journal of ethology 2013 v.31 no.2 pp. 107-113
animal behavior, bankruptcy, death, decision making, economic behavior, game theory, humans, prediction, starvation, uncertainty
In both animal and human behavioral repertoires, classical expected utility theory is considered a fundamental element of decision making under conditions of uncertainty. This theory has been widely applied to problems of animal behavior and evolutionary game theory, as well as to human economic behavior. The Allais paradox hinges on the expression of avoidance of bankruptcy by humans, or death by starvation in animals. This paradox reveals that human behavioral patterns are often inconsistent with predictions under the classical expected utility theory as formulated by von Neumann and Morgenstern. None of the many attempts to reformulate utility theory has been entirely successful in resolving this paradox with rigorous logic. We present a simple, but novel approach to the theory of decision making, in which utility is dependent on current wealth, and in which losses are more heavily weighted than gains. Our approach resolves the Allais paradox in a manner that is consistent with how humans formulate decisions under uncertainty. Our results indicate that animals, including humans, are in principle risk-averse. Our restructuring of dynamic utility theory presents a basic optimization scheme for sequential or dynamic decisions in both animals and humans.