The Ellsberg Paradox

In decision theory and economicsambiguity aversion (also known as uncertainty aversion) is a preference for known risks over unknown risks. An ambiguity-averse individual would rather choose an alternative where the probability distribution of the outcomes is known over one where the probabilities are unknown.

This behaviour was first introduced through the Ellsberg paradox (people prefer to bet on the outcome of an urn with 50 red and 50 black balls rather than to bet on one with 100 total balls but for which the number of black or red balls is unknown).

There are two categories of imperfectly predictable events between which choices must be made: risky and ambiguous events (also known as Knightian uncertainty). Risky events have a known probability distribution over outcomes while in ambiguous events the probability distribution is not known. The reaction is behavioural and still being formalised. Ambiguity aversion can be used to explain incomplete contracts, volatility in stock markets, and selective abstention in elections (Ghirardato & Marinacci, 2001).

The concept is expressed in the English proverb: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.


Wikipedia: Ambiguity Aversion,or%20red%20balls%20is%20unknown).

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