The Role of Narratives in Transferring Rational Choice Models into Political Science

History of Political Economy

30 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2022

See all articles by Alexandra Quack

Alexandra Quack

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Catherine Sophia Herfeld

University of Zurich

Date Written: November 8, 2022

Abstract

One striking observation in the history of rational choice models is that those models have not only been used in economics but spread widely across the social and behavioral sciences. How do such model transfers proceed? By closely studying the early efforts to transfer such models by William Riker – a major protagonist in pushing the adoption of game theoretic models in political science – this article examines the transfer process as one of ‘translation’ by which abstract and mathematical rational choice models were constructed and modified such that they applied to a specific target system in a new domain. In this paper, we argue that to overcome a set of challenges that hampered the straightforward transfer of game theoretic models into political science, Riker complemented theoretical and conceptual modifications of von Neumann and Morgenstern’s game schemes with the use of narratives to turn them into applicable and testable models. As such, those narratives played a crucial role in enabling their transfer and ultimately facilitated the applicability of game theoretic models in political science.

Keywords: narratives in science, history of rational choice models, history of political science, narratives in economics

JEL Classification: B2, B4

Suggested Citation

Quack, Alexandra and Herfeld, Catherine Sophia, The Role of Narratives in Transferring Rational Choice Models into Political Science (November 8, 2022). History of Political Economy, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4270930

Alexandra Quack

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Catherine Sophia Herfeld (Contact Author)

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

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