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A Tutorial Introduction to Decision Theory

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1 Author(s)
North, D.W. ; Systems Sciences Area, Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, Calif. 94025

Decision theory provides a rational framework for choosing between alternative courses of action when the consequences resulting from this choice are imperfectly known. Two streams of thought serve as the foundations: utility theory and the inductive use of probability theory. The intent of this paper is to provide a tutorial introduction to this increasingly important area of systems science. The foundations are developed on an axiomatic basis, and a simple example, the "anniversary problem," is used to illustrate decision theory. The concept of the value of information is developed and demonstrated. At times mathematical rigor has been subordinated to provide a clear and readily accessible exposition of the fundamental assumptions and concepts of decision theory. A sampling of the many elegant and rigorous treatments of decision theory is provided among the references.

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Systems Science and Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:4 ,  Issue: 3 )