'Knowing Whether', 'Knowing That,' and the Cardinality of State Spaces

Sergiu Hart, Aviad Heifetz & Dov Samet

We introduce a new operator on information structures which we call `Knowing whether' as opposed to the standard knowledge operator which may be called `Knowing that'. The difference between these operators is simple. Saying that an agent knows that a certain event occurred implies that this event indeed occurred, while saying that the agent knows whether an event occurred does not imply that the event occurred. (Formally, knowing whether X means that either it is known that X occurred or it is known that X did not occur). We show that iterating `Knowing whether' operators of different agents has a remarkable property that iterations of `knowing that' do not have. When we generate a sequence of events, starting with a given event and then applying `Knowing that' or `not knowing that' to the previous event, then the events in this sequence may be, somewhat surprisingly, contradictory. In contrast, any sequence of this type, generated with `knowing whether' and `not knowing whether' is never contradictory. We use this property of the `knowing whether' operator to construct a simple and natural state space and information structures for two agents, such that: (1) any two states are distinct relative to some interactive knowledge of a fixed event, (2) the space has the cardinality of the continuum. This result - originally proved in a complicated manner by Aumann (1989) - demonstrates the usefulness of the `knowing whether' operator.

October, 1993
Published in: 
Journal of Economic Theory 70 (1996), 249-256