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The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice$
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Paul Anand, Prasanta Pattanaik, and Clemens Puppe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199290420

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199290420.001.0001

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Experimental Tests of Rationality *

Experimental Tests of Rationality *

The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice

Daniel Read

Oxford University Press

Rational choice theory assumes that agents have a set of basic preferences, and specifies “rationality conditions” that must be met to satisfy those preferences optimally. Most experimental studies in behavioural economics are either explicit tests of whether actual behaviour conforms to these rationality conditions or else developments of theories that began that way. This chapter is a selective review of these experimental studies. It focuses on differences between the conditions of choice that are normatively irrelevant according to the rationality conditions, yet which nonetheless have, a profound influence on preference. These include framing of consequences, adding irrelevant items to the choice set, and changing the way preferences are expressed. The chapter discusses how preferences are not pre‐computed, but rather produced at the moment of choice from information that is made salient by the choice context.

Keywords:   rational choice theory, behavioural economics, small world, rational conditions, conditions of choice

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