Revisiting Ellsberg's and Machina's Paradoxes: A two-stage evaluation model under ambiguity

Ying He*

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this paper, a two-stage evaluation (TSE) model for decision making under ambiguity is proposed. Events in state space are classified into risky and ambiguous events, which correspond to different types of uncertainty generated by different sources. In this TSE model, uncertainty of two different types are evaluated by decision maker (DM) in different stages. In the first stage, DM evaluates more uncertain consequences of an act locally by applying local subjective expected utility (SEU) models, which are then embedded into the second-stage evaluation based on SEU defined globally over all events. To axiomatize such a model, the small domain SEU over risky acts is extended to both risky and nonrisky (ambiguous) acts. When evaluating a risky act, TSE model reduces to Savage's SEU with one stage. When evaluating an ambiguous act, local SEU with a different uncertainty aversion defined on ambiguous events gives TSE model some flexibility in describing preferences. It can be shown that TSE model can accommodate Ellsberg's paradoxes and Machina's paradoxes in the literature. When applied to portfolio selection problem, TSE model enjoys some nice properties other models do not have.

Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement Science
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)6629-7289
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


  • Ambiguity
  • Ellsberg paradox
  • Machina paradox
  • Small domains
  • Two+stage
  • Source dependent
  • Portfolio selection
  • Two-stage
  • Myopic utility


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