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Accounting for Changing Tastes: Approaches to Explaining Unstable Individual Preferences

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  • Jacobs Martin

    (Department of Economics, University of Kiel, Olshausenstr. 40, 24098 Kiel, Germany)

Abstract

Standard economic theory assumes individual preferences to be fixed and exogenously given. This view has been challenged by numerous empirical observations. In reaction to those challenges, economic theory has been modified, mostly by including additional arguments into individuals’ utility functions. Among the approaches that tackle preference change are new consumer theory, habit formation, interdependent and status preferences, social and emotional influences, and reference point-dependent preferences. Hence, while standard economics largely abide by their assumption of stable preferences, an array of alternative approaches is now available to account for changing tastes. Some of these approaches are old and have been discussed in the literature for many decades while others are younger. However, all approaches have in common that they, in some cases surprisingly, have not made it to standard microeconomics textbooks. This survey aims at putting the approaches in perspective. For each of them, empirical evidence as well as methodological issues are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacobs Martin, 2016. "Accounting for Changing Tastes: Approaches to Explaining Unstable Individual Preferences," Review of Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 67(2), pages 121-183, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:lus:reveco:v:67:y:2016:i:2:p:121-183:n:2
    DOI: 10.1515/roe-2015-1007
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    Keywords

    individual preferences; preference change; rationality; behavioral economics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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