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Are rival theories of smoking underdetermined?

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  • Robert Goldfarb
  • Thomas Leonard
  • Steven Suranovic

Abstract

Some empirically minded philosophers of science argue that the evidence should choose the best theory from among theoretical rivals. However, the evidence may not speak clearly, a problem of 'underdetermination of theory by data'. We examine this problem in a concrete setting, rival theories of smoking behaviour. We investigate whether several uncontested pieces of empirical evidence allow us to choose between two competing theoretical perspectives on smoking, rational choice and non-rational choice, respectively. Next, we develop a more refined taxonomy of smoking theories, and consider the consequences for theory testing. Finally, we examine some normative aspects of theory choice involving the appropriate scope of government action.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 8 (2001)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 229-251

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:8:y:2001:i:2:p:229-251

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Related research

Keywords: Underdetermination Of Theory By Data; Empirical Testing; Theory Choice; Rational Choice Theory; Smoking; Paternalism;

References

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  1. Schelling, Thomas C, 1984. "Self-Command in Practice, in Policy, and in a Theory of Rational Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 1-11, May.
  2. Bryan Boulier & Robert Goldfarb, 1998. "On the use and nonuse of surveys in economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 1-21.
  3. Frank J. Chaloupka & Kenneth E. Warner, 1999. "The Economics of Smoking," NBER Working Papers 7047, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gary S. Becker & Michael Grossman & Kevin M. Murphy, 1990. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," NBER Working Papers 3322, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  6. Gary S.Grossman Becker & Michael Murphy & Kevin M., 1991. "Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 68, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  7. Suranovic, Steven M. & Goldfarb, Robert S. & Leonard, Thomas C., 1999. "An economic theory of cigarette addiction," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-29, January.
  8. Frank J. Chaloupka & Michael Grossman, 1996. "Price, Tobacco Control Policies and Youth Smoking," NBER Working Papers 5740, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Orphanides, Athanasios & Zervos, David, 1995. "Rational Addiction with Learning and Regret," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 739-58, August.
  10. Chaloupka, Frank, 1991. "Rational Addictive Behavior and Cigarette Smoking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 722-42, August.
  11. George Loewenstein & Richard H Thaler, 2003. "Anomalies: Intertemporal Choice," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000784, David K. Levine.
  12. Leonard, Thomas C. & Goldfarb, Robert S. & Suranovic, Steven M., 2000. "New on Paternalism and Public Policy," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 16(02), pages 323-331, October.
  13. Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-93, Fall.
  14. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  15. Goldbaum, David, 2000. "Life Cycle Consumption of a Harmful and Addictive Good," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 38(3), pages 458-69, July.
  16. Thaler, Richard, 1981. "Some empirical evidence on dynamic inconsistency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 201-207.
  17. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. New, Bill, 1999. "Paternalism and Public Policy," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(01), pages 63-83, April.
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Cited by:
  1. Steven M. Suranovic, 2005. "An Economic Model of Youth Smoking: Tax and Welfare Effects," HEW 0511003, EconWPA.
  2. Robert S. Goldfarb & Thomas C. Leonard & Sara Markowitz & Steven Suranovic, 2009. "Can A Rational Choice Framework Make Sense of Anorexia Nervosa?," NBER Working Papers 14838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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