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A Test of the Principle of Optimality

By Enrica Carbone and John Hey

Abstract

This paper reports on an experimental test of the Principle of Optimality in dynamic decision problems. This Principle, which states that the decision-maker should always choose the optimal decision at each stage of the decision problem, conditional on behaving optimally thereafter, underlies many theories of optimal dynamic decision making, but is normally difficult to test empirically without knowledge of the decision-maker's preference function. In the experiment reported here we use a new experimental procedure to get round this difficulty, which also enables us to shed some light on the decision process that the decision-maker is using if he or she is not using the Principle of Optimality - which appears to be the case in our experiments.

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