Rational choice theory: its merits and limits in explaining and predicting cultural behavior

Kılınç Adanalı, Yurdagül
The main goal of this dissertation is to examine whether instrumental rationality can predict and explain successfully human behavior in all walks of life. I have chosen Rational Choice Theory and Public Choice Theory as the focus of my investigation, since they are considered as the best models of instrumental rationality in philosophy and social sciences, and in particular in economics and politics. To see their merits and to determine their limits, I have applied Rational Choice Theory and Public Choice Theory to the problems of culture and identity, since they are generally regarded beyond the scope of rationality and are believed to represent the most complicated forms of human behavior. I have argued that culture and identity can be subjected to the criteria of rationality and that Rational Choice Theory and Public Choice Theory have relative success in explaining and predicting the complexity and subtlety of cultural behaviors. Their success, however, is limited, since they make unrealistic assumptions about human cognitive capacity, they disregard the content of preferences, they dismiss the role of emotions in decision making, they are empirically ungeneralizable, they reduce collective structures to individual decisions, among other shortcomings. Despite these criticisms, instrumental rationality still retains its philosophical value in investigating and explaining human decisions and acts.


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Citation Formats
Y. Kılınç Adanalı, “Rational choice theory: its merits and limits in explaining and predicting cultural behavior,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2016.