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Rational Roots Of "Irrational" Behavior: New Theories Of Economic Decision-Making

  • Opaluch, James J.
  • Segerson, Kathleen

The neoclassical paradigm has proven to be a rich approach for evaluating a variety of issues for individual and social decision-making. However, an increasing body of literature suggests that actual behavior systematically violates the neoclassical utility model. This paper reviews a number of alternative models for decision-making. Results from the literature show several examples of apparently "irrational" behavior that can be explained in terms of these alternative motivations. The paper also extends the received literature by examining in some detail the implications of one such model which is based on the psychological feeling of ambivalence. The paper demonstrates that ambivalence has the potential for explaining the appearance of intransitive choices, the use of rules of thumb in decision-making and the large discrepancies between stated willingness-to-pay and willingness-to-accept, all of which have been observed in various settings. There are potentially great rewards from innovative research that expands the neoclassical paradigm to incorporate additional motivational factors in decision-making.

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Article provided by Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association in its journal Northeastern Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Volume (Year): 18 (1989)
Issue (Month): 2 (October)

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Handle: RePEc:ags:nejare:28875
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  1. Harry Markowitz, 1952. "The Utility of Wealth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 151.
  2. Schoemaker, Paul J H, 1982. "The Expected Utility Model: Its Variants, Purposes, Evidence and Limitations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 529-63, June.
  3. W. Michael Hanemann, 1984. "Welfare Evaluations in Contingent Valuation Experiments with Discrete Responses," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 66(3), pages 332-341.
  4. Gregory, Robin, 1986. "Interpreting measures of economic loss: Evidence from contingent valuation and experimental studies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 325-337, December.
  5. Machina, Mark J, 1987. "Choice under Uncertainty: Problems Solved and Unsolved," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 121-54, Summer.
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