Rational Irrationality: A Framework for the Neoclassical-Behavioral Debate
Critics of behavioral economics often argue that apparent irrationality arises mainly because test subjects lack adequate incentives; the defenders of behavioral economics typically reply that their findings are robust to this criticism. The current paper presents a simple theoretical model of "rational irrationality" to clarify this debate, reducing the neoclassical-behavioral dispute to a controversy over the shape of agents' wealth/irrationality indifference curves. Many experimental anomalies are consistent with small deviations from polar "neoclassical" preferences, but even mildly relaxing standard assumptions about preferences has strong implications. Rational irrationality can explain both standard, costly biases, as well as wealth-enhancing irrationality, but it remains inconsistent with evidence that intensifying financial incentives for rationality makes biases more pronounced.
Volume (Year): 26 (2000)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
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