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Where do preferences come from?

  • Franz Dietrich
  • Christian List

Rational choice theory analyzes how an agent can rationally act, given his or her preferences, but says little about where those preferences come from. Preferences are usually assumed to be fixed and exogenously given. Building on related work on reasons and rational choice (Dietrich and List, Nous, forthcoming), we describe a framework for conceptualizing preference formation and preference change. In our model, an agent’s preferences are based on certain ‘motivationally salient’ properties of the alternatives over which the preferences are held. Preferences may change as new properties of the alternatives become salient or previously salient properties cease to be salient. Our approach captures endogenous preferences in various contexts and helps to illuminate the distinction between formal and substantive concepts of rationality, as well as the role of perception in rational choice. Copyright Springer-Verlag 2013

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Date of creation: 20 Dec 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:661465000000001137
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  1. Dufwenberg, Martin & Kirchsteiger, Georg, 2004. "A theory of sequential reciprocity," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 268-298, May.
  2. Michael Bacharach, 2006. "The Hi-Lo Paradox, from Beyond Individual Choice: Teams and Frames in Game Theory
    [Beyond Individual Choice: Teams and Frames in Game Theory]
    ," Introductory Chapters, Princeton University Press.
  3. Franz Dietrich & Christian List, 2009. "A Model of Non-Informational Preference Change," Levine's Working Paper Archive 814577000000000297, David K. Levine.
  4. Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
  5. Hammond, Peter J, 1976. "Changing Tastes and Coherent Dynamic Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(1), pages 159-73, February.
  6. Franz Dietrich & Christian List, 2010. "A reason-based theory of rational choice," Levine's Working Paper Archive 661465000000000046, David K. Levine.
  7. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132.
  8. Franz Dietrich, 2014. "Anti-terrorism policies and the risk of provoking," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 26(3), pages 405-441, July.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Gachter, Simon, 1998. "Reciprocity and economics: The economic implications of Homo Reciprocans1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 845-859, May.
  10. Matthew Rabin, 1998. "Psychology and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 11-46, March.
  11. Natalie Gold & Christian List, 2002. "Framing as Path-Dependence," Microeconomics 0211016, EconWPA.
  12. M. Rabin, 2001. "Incorporating Fairness into Game Theory and Economics," Levine's Working Paper Archive 511, David K. Levine.
  13. Sethi, Rajiv & Somanathan, E., 2001. "Preference Evolution and Reciprocity," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 273-297, April.
  14. Eddie Dekel & Jeffrey C. Ely & Okan Yilankaya, 2007. "Evolution of Preferences -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 685-704.
  15. Axel Ockenfels & Gary E. Bolton, 2000. "ERC: A Theory of Equity, Reciprocity, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(1), pages 166-193, March.
  16. Dekel, Eddie & Ely, Jeffrey & Yilankaya, Okan, 2004. "Evolution of Preferences," Microeconomics.ca working papers dekel-04-08-13-01-21-07, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 09 Jun 2006.
  17. Robert Sugden, 2005. "Why rationality is not a consequence of Hume's theory of choice," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 113-118.
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