rational choice theory

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rational choice theory

a relatively formal approach to sociological and social science theorizing (e.g. drawing upon the THEORY OF GAMES notion of STRATEGIC INTERACTION and ECONOMICS), in which it is maintained that social life is principally capable of explanation as the outcome of the ‘rational choices’ of individual actors.

‘When faced with several courses of action, people usually do what they believe is likely to have the best overall outcome. This deceptively simple sentence summarizes the theory of rational choice’ (Elster, 1989). It is a form of theorizing characterized by the use of technically rigorous models of social behaviour, which seek to derive robust conclusions from a relatively small number of initial theoretical assumptions about ‘rational behaviour’.

Rational choice theories have been in vogue over the last two decades, prompted by dissatisfaction with macroscopic and structural models in some circles but also by an increased centrality for the rhetoric of individual rational choice in many areas in economic and political life. Despite its often impressive formal architecture, and its undoubted value in illuminating some areas of social reality, two important limitations of rational choice theory can be noted (see Hollis, 1987):

  1. its relative lack of success in overcoming numerous technical difficulties (e.g. a regress in actors’ expectations concerning the actions of others), which limit its formal rigour and undermine the direct applicability of its models;
  2. an association with positivist and pragmatist epistemologies, which has limited its attention to analysis of action located in norm-guided, rule-following and rule-changing social behaviour. see also EXCHANGE THEORY.
References in periodicals archive ?
poses a challenge to the predictions of the rational actor model, at its
Additionally, it assumes rational actors, defined as states having situational awareness of their external environment and behaving logically to achieve their own goals.
56) To a fully rational actor, assuming the benefits of an active choice outweigh the costs of deliberation, the specification of the default should be an irrelevant feature of the choice setting, but with respect to some persons, this feature appears to be choice determinative.
a) Rational Model is based on loss and gains but systematic way of analyzing different steps is called as rational Actor model.
In the mainstream theory of institutional change, there is no real human agency, because what a rational actor will choose is already structurally determined.
The individual became the ultimate agent of change -- an individual conceived as the type of rational actor that populates economists' models.
The emergence of social networks has "changed the predictive role of the rational actor and provided a venue for individuals to exhibit behavior that does not fall into the traditional model of the rational actor" (Gordon, Baldwin-Philippi, 2013, p.
Assuming that Kim is a rational actor, he must have had good reason to believe that the Chinese lifeline would be sustained, even if he executed China's favorite interlocutor in North Korea.
In the past, interpreters and evaluators, working from a rational actor perspective, were attracted to intuitive knowledge -attitudes-behavior consistency frameworks.
Second, Japan has no foreign and security policy either because it is a reactive state or because it is not a unified rational actor and therefore is incapable of a "normal" policy.
Since the authors reject the state being a black box, they put aside the rational actor model in their research.
Grilled during a Senate Budget Committee meeting, Dempsey also defended his comment that Iran was a rational actor from Sen.