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Utility function[ edit ] Consider a set of alternatives facing an individual, and over which the individual has a preference ordering. A utility function is able Projects on consumer behavior towards tea represent those preferences if it is possible to assign a real number to each alternative, in such a way that alternative a is assigned a number greater than alternative b if, and only if, the individual prefers alternative a to alternative b.
In this situation an individual that selects the most preferred alternative available is necessarily also selecting the alternative that maximises the associated utility function. Applications[ edit ] Utility is usually applied by economists in such constructs as the indifference curvewhich plot the combination of commodities that an individual or a society would accept to maintain a given level of satisfaction.
Utility and indifference curves are used by economists to understand the underpinnings of demand curveswhich are half of the supply and demand analysis that is used to analyze the workings of goods markets. Individual utility and social utility can be construed as the value of a utility function and a social welfare function respectively.
When coupled with production or commodity constraints, under some assumptions these functions can be used to analyze Pareto efficiencysuch as illustrated by Edgeworth boxes in contract curves.
Such efficiency is a central concept in welfare economics. In financeutility is applied to generate an individual's price for an asset called the indifference price.
Utility functions are also related to risk measureswith the most common example being the entropic risk measure. Revealed preference[ edit ] It was recognized that utility could not be measured or observed directly, so instead economists devised a way to infer underlying relative utilities from observed choice.
These 'revealed preferences', as they were named by Paul Samuelsonwere revealed e. Utility is taken to be correlative to Desire or Want. It has been already argued that desires cannot be measured directly, but only indirectly, by the outward phenomena to which they give rise: At one time, it was assumed that the consumer was able to say exactly how much utility he got from the commodity.
The economists who made this assumption belonged to the 'cardinalist school' of economics.
Today utility functions, expressing utility as a function of the amounts of the various goods consumed, are treated as either cardinal or ordinal, depending on whether they are or are not interpreted as providing more information than simply the rank ordering of preferences over bundles of goods, such as information on the strength of preferences.
Cardinal utility When cardinal utility is used, the magnitude of utility differences is treated as an ethically or behaviorally significant quantity. For example, suppose a cup of orange juice has utility of utils, a cup of tea has a utility of 80 utils, and a cup of water has a utility of 40 utils.
With cardinal utility, it can be concluded that the cup of orange juice is better than the cup of tea by exactly the same amount by which the cup of tea is better than the cup of water. Formally speaking, this means that if one has a cup of tea, she would be willing to take any bet with a probability, p, greater than.
One cannot conclude, however, that the cup of tea is two thirds as good as the cup of juice, because this conclusion would depend not only on magnitudes of utility differences, but also on the "zero" of utility.
For example, if the "zero" of utility was located atthen a cup of orange juice would be utils more than zero, a cup of tea utils more than zero. Neoclassical economics has largely retreated from using cardinal utility functions as the basis of economic behavior. A notable exception is in the context of analyzing choice under conditions of risk see below.
Sometimes cardinal utility is used to aggregate utilities across persons, to create a social welfare function.
Ordinal utility When ordinal utilities are used, differences in utils values taken on by the utility function are treated as ethically or behaviorally meaningless: In the above example, it would only be possible to say that juice is preferred to tea to water, but no more.
Ordinal utility functions are unique up to increasing monotone or monotonic transformations. For example, if a function u.A STUDY ON CONSUMER BEHAVIOR TOWARD SOFT DRINKS.
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