Upper and lower probabilities

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Upper and lower probabilities are representations of imprecise probability. Whereas probability theory uses a single number, the probability, to describe how likely an event is to occur, this method uses two numbers: the upper probability of the event and the lower probability of the event.

Because frequentist statistics disallows metaprobabilities[dead link],[citation needed] frequentists have had to propose new solutions. Cedric Smith and Arthur Dempster each developed a theory of upper and lower probabilities. Glenn Shafer developed Dempster's theory further, and it is now known as Dempster–Shafer theory: see also Choquet(1953). More precisely, in the work of these authors one considers in a power set, , a mass function satisfying the conditions

In turn, a mass is associated with two non-additive continuous measures called belief and plausibility defined as follows:

In the case where is infinite there can be such that there is no associated mass function. See p. 36 of Halpern (2003). Probability measures are a special case of belief functions in which the mass function assigns positive mass to singletons of the event space only.

A different notion of upper and lower probabilities is obtained by the lower and upper envelopes obtained from a class C of probability distributions by setting

The upper and lower probabilities are also related with probabilistic logic: see Gerla (1994).

Observe also that a necessity measure can be seen as a lower probability and a possibility measure can be seen as an upper probability.

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