TY - JOUR
T1 - Randomized switching in the two-envelope problem
JF - Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science
SP - 3309
LP - 3322
M3 - 10.1098/rspa.2009.0312
VL - 465
IS - 2111
AU - McDonnell, Mark D.
AU - Abbott, Derek
Y1 - 2009/11/08
UR - http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/465/2111/3309.abstract
N2 - The two-envelope problem is a conundrum in decision theory that is subject to longstanding debate. It is a counterintuitive problem of decidability between two different states, in the presence of uncertainty, where a player’s payoff must be maximized in some fashion. The problem is a significant one as it impacts on our understanding of probability theory, decision theory and optimization. It is timely to revisit this problem, as a number of related two-state switching phenomena are emerging in physics, engineering and economics literature. In this paper, we discuss this wider significance, and offer a new approach to the problem. For the first time, we analyse the problem by adopting Cover’s switching strategy—this is where we randomly switch states with a probability that is a smoothly decreasing function of the observed value of one state. Surprisingly, we show that the player’s payoff can be increased by this strategy. We also extend the problem to show that a deterministic switching strategy, based on a thresholded decision once the amount in an envelope is observed, is also workable. © 2009 The Royal Society
ER -