Where do Preferences Come From?

20 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2010

See all articles by Christian List

Christian List

LMU Munich; London School of Economics

Franz Dietrich

Paris School of Economics & CNRS

Date Written: December 19, 2010


Rational choice theory analyzes how an agent can rationally act, given his or her preferences, but says little about where those preferences come from. Instead, preferences are usually assumed to be fixed and exogenously given. We introduce 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 ones cease to be so. We suggest that 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.

Keywords: preference formation, preference change, properties, motivations, reasons, endogenous preferences, formal versus substantive rationality, perception

JEL Classification: A10, B41, C00, C70, D00, D11, D80, D81

Suggested Citation

List, Christian and Dietrich, Franz, Where do Preferences Come From? (December 19, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1728510 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1728510

Christian List (Contact Author)

LMU Munich ( email )


London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom

Franz Dietrich

Paris School of Economics & CNRS ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014

HOME PAGE: http://www.franzdietrich.net

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