Original Research

Ending the myth of the St Petersburg Paradox

Robert Vivian
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 16, No 3 | a424 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v16i3.424 | © 2013 Robert Vivian | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 August 2012 | Published: 02 September 2013

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Robert Vivian, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Nicolas Bernoulli suggested the St Petersburg game, nearly 300 years ago, which is widely believed to produce a paradox in decision theory. This belief stems from a long standing mathematical error in the original calculation of the expected value of the game. This article argues that, in addition to the mathematical error, there are also methodological considerations which gave rise to the paradox. This article explains these considerations and why because of the modern computer, the same considerations, when correctly applied, also demonstrate that no paradox exists. Because of the longstanding belief that a paradox exists it is unlikely the mere mathematical correction will end the myth. The article explains why it is the methodological correction which will dispel the myth.


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1. Does the St. Petersburg Paradox Cast Doubt on the Use of Expected Value Theory to Approximate the Random Present Value of a Life Annuity?
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