Decisions against preferences

AbstractAn agent decides against her preferences, if she considers an option x better than another option y but nevertheless decides to do y. A central tenet of rational choice theory states that individuals do not decide against their preferences, whereby we find two kinds of potential counterexamples in the literature: akrasia, also known as weak-willed decisions, and decisions based on so-called deontic constraints such as obligations or commitments. While there is some empirical evidence that weak-willed choices are a real phenomenon, leading scholars in philosophy of economics debate whether choices based on commitments can be counter-preferential. As far as we know, however, nobody so far has tried to settle this debate empirically. This paper contributes to both debates since we present some empirical evidence that (i) akrasia can also be strong-willed and (ii) choices made on the basis of commitments can indeed be counter-preferential. We will conclude that people can decide against their preferences without being unreasonable.

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