Some branches of economics and game theory deal with indivisible goods, discrete items that can be traded only as a whole. For example, in combinatorial auctions there is a finite set of items, and every agent can buy a subset of the items, but an item cannot be divided among two or more agents. It is usually assumed that every agent assigns subjective utility to every subset of the items. This can be represented in one of two ways: A cardinal utility function implies a preference relation: implies and implies . Utility functions can have several properties.

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• Some branches of economics and game theory deal with indivisible goods, discrete items that can be traded only as a whole. For example, in combinatorial auctions there is a finite set of items, and every agent can buy a subset of the items, but an item cannot be divided among two or more agents. It is usually assumed that every agent assigns subjective utility to every subset of the items. This can be represented in one of two ways: * An ordinal utility preference relation, usually marked by . The fact that an agent prefers a set to a set is written . If the agent only weakly prefers (i.e. either prefers or is indifferent between and ) then this is written . * A cardinal utility function, usually denoted by . The utility an agent gets from a set is written . Cardinal utility functions are often normalized such that , where is the empty set. A cardinal utility function implies a preference relation: implies and implies . Utility functions can have several properties. (en)
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