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What if Utility Functions do not Exist?

Author(s): Roberts, Fred S.
Corporate Author: RAND Corporation
Corporate Report Number: R-528-ARPA
Date of Publication: 1970-09
Pages: 35
Contract: DAHC15 67 C 0141
Contract: ARPA Order No. 189-1
AD Number: AD0712762

The document discusses alternatives to the strict decisionmaking goal of ranking all alternatives or, equivalently, obtaining a utility function. For many military problems, the best information available is the combined judgements of experts. Often, however, the preferences of decisionmakers are too inconsistent or ambiguous to permit a complete ranking of alternatives or a utility function. Optional methods for dealing with such a situation include finding a procedure through which preferences can be modified to obtain a utility function; using the utility assignment that best approximates a utility function; or modifying the demands on utility functions. The study emphasizes the third alternative, and describes it in terms of techniques from the theory of measurement, recently developed by behavioral scientists, that facilitate decisionmaking where no utility functions exist.

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