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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Among his topics are the nature and extent of crime, rational choice theory, social process theory, political crime and terrorism, and crimes of the new millennium: cybercrime and transnational organized crime.
Rational choice theorists are at a loss in these types of cases, and the dominance of these methodologies has stifled our understanding of and willingness to even acknowledge VNSA's use of dark magic.
Social Learning Theory, low-self control theory, rational choice theory and digital media cost) are considered as a potential keys that that may influence an individual's intention to pirate digital material.
Both relate to the status of the variously named, economic or rational choice or subjective expected utility maximising, model of how people decide what to do (I shall use rational choice in what follows).
Bulgaria's competition watchdog has fined pay-TV services provider Bulsatcom for its failure to provide customers with exact information on a new promo package it is offering.The sanction on Bulsatcom amounts to 0.4% of its total turnover for the previous financial year, or BGN 590 792 (EUR 302 522) Since March of last year the company has been offering the so-called Diema Extra pack which adds two two sports channels for a monthly subscription of BGN 3.96 without providing detailed information about the content of the programs, this limiting the customer's possibility to make a rational choice. Additionally, Diema Extra Pack was not broadcast for a certain period after Bulsatcom started offering the package, the watchdog says.
It is awkward because he is portrayed as someone whose experiments suggest that, in markets, the predictions of theory based on rational choice assumptions does rather well.
The Rational Choice approach to crime is closely aligned with the dominant ethos of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales (Jones, 2008).
Economic analysis and rational choice have made significant inroads into the study of international law and institutions in the last decade, relying upon standard assumptions of perfect rationality of states and decisionmakers.
Several import agreements has led Fujairah to fully develop the logistics and infrastructure necessary to manage large scale operations adding to the strength of the emirates as rational choice as a prospective import partner, said the report.
We must take responsibility for our actions, which impact not only animals but also humans, and we can all be part of the solution by making the only rational choice: to leave animals off our plates.
We must take responsibility for our actions, which impact not only on animals but also humans, and we can all be part of the solution by making the only rational choice: to leave animals off our plates.
First published in 1986, this volume brings a rational choice theoretic perspective to the study of criminology through assessment of the rational and adaptive aspects of offending and their implications for policy, including the implication that greater attention must be paid to the criminal event itself and the situational factors that influence its commission, rather than just focusing on the criminal.