Biased in favor of your null hypothesis

February 27, 2010

Another great post on orgtheory.  I think the takeaway is that when it is really hard to prove something conclusively people fall back on their personal and disciplinary biases.  Rafe Stolzenberg has more than once reminded me how economists’ strong theory is a double-edged sword.  Economists need to be reminded that even if the data you’re currently analyzing can’t reject every possible rational choice model doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take alternative models seriously.  In fact, placing such a heavy burden of proof on alternative models seems quite irrational to me.

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Hirschman on Rational Choice Theory

January 26, 2010

Dan Hirschman, grad student at the University of Michigan, has a great post on rational choice theory.  It is framed as a critique, but I consider it wholly compatible with my defense of RCT. Human behavior is complex and different aspects of it will be best understood with different theories/models/levels of analysis.  See some of my previous posts on modeling here.


Forced to Defend Rational Choice Theory

November 10, 2009

I’m finally responding to Eli Thorkelson, who asked for my comments on an article by feminist economist Julie Nelson.  The article is a critique of rational choice theory (RCT) and I think it has some omissions and misleading claims.

I regularly come across particular instances of rational choice theorizing that I dislike, but non-economists, including sociologists, often dismiss rational choice theory without understanding it, so when the topic comes up among non-economists, I almost inevitably find myself defending it.  My claim is that rational choice theory, broadly construed, is an important, though certainly not the only, useful framework for understanding human behavior.  This should be considered an utterly boring claim.  What is interesting is how any social scientist could deny it… Read the rest of this entry »