Reason-Based Rationalization

50 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2013  

Franz Dietrich

CNRS; University of East Anglia (UEA)

Christian List

London School of Economics

Date Written: November 25, 2013


We introduce a “reason-based” way of rationalizing an agent's choice behaviour, which explains choices by specifying which properties of the options or choice context the agent cares about (the “motivationally salient properties”) and how he or she cares about these properties (the “fundamental preference relation”). Reason-based rationalizations can explain non-classical choice behaviour, including boundedly rational and sophisticated rational behaviour, and predict choices in unobserved contexts, an issue neglected in standard choice theory. We characterize the behavioural implications of different reason-based models and distinguish two kinds of context-dependent motivation: “context-variant” motivation, where the agent cares about different properties in different contexts, and “context-regarding” motivation, where the agent cares not only about properties of the options, but also about properties relating to the context.

Keywords: choice theory, rationalization, non-classical choice behaviour, bounded rationality, sophisticated rationality, context-dependence, framing, revealed preferences, prediction of choice

JEL Classification: D00, D11, D80

Suggested Citation

Dietrich, Franz and List, Christian, Reason-Based Rationalization (November 25, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Franz Dietrich


3, rue Michel-Ange
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University of East Anglia (UEA)

Norwich Research Park
Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

Christian List (Contact Author)

London School of Economics ( email )

United Kingdom

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