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Between Mathematical Formalism, Normative Choice Rules, and the Behavioral Sciences: The Emergence of Rational Choice Theories in the Late 1940s and Early 1950s

European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Forthcoming

45 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2017 Last revised: 13 Sep 2017

Catherine Sophia Herfeld

University of Zurich

Date Written: June 22, 2017

Abstract

This paper discusses why mathematical economists of the early Cold War period favored formal-axiomatic over behavioral choice theories. One reason was that formal-axiomatic theories allowed mathematical economists to improve the conceptual and theoretical foundations of economics and thereby to increase its scientific status. Furthermore, the separation between mathematical economics and other behavioral sciences was not as clear-cut as often argued. While economists did not modify their behavioral assumptions, some acknowledged the empirical shortcomings of their models. The paper reveals the multifaceted nature of rational choice theories reflected in the changing interpretations and roles of the theories in those early years.

Keywords: History of rational choice theory

JEL Classification: B00, B2, B4

Suggested Citation

Herfeld, Catherine Sophia, Between Mathematical Formalism, Normative Choice Rules, and the Behavioral Sciences: The Emergence of Rational Choice Theories in the Late 1940s and Early 1950s (June 22, 2017). European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2990914

Catherine Sophia Herfeld (Contact Author)

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

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