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Confronting the Sirens: Rational Behavior in the Face of Changing Preferences


  • David Sally


"Men more easily renounce their interests than their tastes." (Rochefoucauld) Consistency and constancy are hallmarks of Odysseus' behavior with respect to the Sirens. The usual reading is that he is a general model of the way all self-control situations should be handled. The alternative interpretation is that Odysseus may have made the wrong decision and should not have been bound. These competing explanations are linked to dissociations among decision, experienced and predicted utilities, between autonomy and commitment and between sophistication and naivete. These dissociations, in turn, are critical to a full understanding of the attraction of wealth, alcoholism and drug addiction, sympathy and charity, and living wills and end-of-life care.

Suggested Citation

  • David Sally, 2000. "Confronting the Sirens: Rational Behavior in the Face of Changing Preferences," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 156(4), pages 684-684, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:mhr:jinste:urn:sici:0932-4569(200012)156:4_684:ctsrbi_2.0.tx_2-_

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Theo S. Eicher, 1996. "Interaction Between Endogenous Human Capital and Technological Change," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(1), pages 127-144.
    2. Atkinson, A B, 1997. "Bringing Income Distribution in from the Cold," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(441), pages 297-321, March.
    3. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    4. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 71-102, October.
    5. Bean, Charles & Pissarides, Christopher, 1993. "Unemployment, consumption and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 837-854, May.
    6. Phelps, Edmund S & Zoega, Gylfi, 1997. "The Rise and Downward Trend of the Natural Rate," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 283-289, May.
    7. Christopher A. Pissarides, 2000. "Equilibrium Unemployment Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262161877, January.
    8. Cahuc, Pierre & Michel, Philippe, 1996. "Minimum wage unemployment and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1463-1482, August.
    9. Arnold, Lutz G., 1998. "Growth, Welfare, and Trade in an Integrated Model of Human-Capital Accumulation and Research," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 81-105, January.
    10. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Stanley Fischer, 1989. "Lectures on Macroeconomics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262022834, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Broussolle, Damien, 2005. "Internal consistency of choice, Sen and the spirit of revealed preferences: A behaviorist approach," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 605-620, October.
    2. Kaushik Basu, 2006. "Gender and Say: a Model of Household Behaviour with Endogenously Determined Balance of Power," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(511), pages 558-580, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


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