Individual Choice Behavior: A Theoretical Analysis

Individual Choice Behavior: A Theoretical Analysis

Individual Choice Behavior: A Theoretical Analysis

Individual Choice Behavior: A Theoretical Analysis

Excerpt

Aside from statistics, the most extensive and systematic mathematical applications in psychology have so far centered about problems of organisms making choices from discrete, well-defined sets of alternatives. One need only recall that this is a feature common to information theory, much of psychophysical scaling, utility theory and decision theory generally, stochastic learning theory, and many of the psychometric models. Whether it is a deep or superficial feature is another matter, but there can be little doubt that it exists. If it is deep, one can anticipate considerable benefit accruing to its exposure and study; if not, the study should make clearer some of the inherent differences that have led to a variety of theories. The purpose of this book is to undertake such a study.

A simple probabilistic theory is presented that overlaps each of these fields in a significant way. It by no means subsumes them, but it does seem to be central in part of the development of each. To this common theory each special topic adds conditions of its own that result in its distinctive quality.

The book is theoretical in the sense that it offers a mathematical theory of choice behavior, and it is not empirical in the sense that no new data are presented. It is not, however, anti-empirical. Throughout, questions of empirical verification are considered, and, wherever possible, existing data have been brought to bear. Whether the theory will ultimately have serious empirical consequences remains to be seen, but at the least it has initiated a number of experimental studies which will be reported in the periodical literature.

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