On the aversion to incomplete preferences

Ritxar Arlegi, Sacha Bourgeois-Gironde, Mikel Hualde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose an axiomatization of aversion to incomplete preferences. Some prevailing models of incomplete preferences rely on the hypothesis that incompleteness is temporary and that by keeping their opportunity set open individuals reveal a preference for flexibility. We consider that the maintenance of incomplete preference is also aversive. Our model allows us to show how incompleteness induces an aversive attitude in two different ways: intrinsic and instrumental. Intrinsic aversion holds when one instance of incomplete preference in the set suffices to decrease its utility. Instrumental aversion holds only insofar dominating options are affected by incompleteness. Given two partially overlapping sets of axioms on the binary relation over sets we formalize their consistency with the two types of aversion to incompleteness. Finally, we relate our model to the classical Sen’s distinction between tentative and assertive incompleteness. The spelling out of this distinction in the terms of our approach uncovers to what extent aversion to incompleteness may be compatible with a preference for flexibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-217
Number of pages35
JournalTheory and Decision
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Aversion to incomplete preferences
  • Preference for flexibility
  • Ranking sets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Decision Sciences
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Computer Science Applications


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