Rational choice epistemology and belief formation in mass politics

Eric S. Dickson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article begins with a general discussion of the epistemology of rational choice, and argues that there are important questions in political science for which rational choice theory is not a particularly useful epistemic tool. It is further argued that part of the problem lies with the particular vision of methodological individualism that is inherent in the use of classical rational choice assumptions in game theoretic models. An alternative approach that endogenizes the way in which people form beliefs is then advocated as a potential solution to this problem, both as a means to expand the substantive reach of optimizing theories in political science, as well as a way of incorporating more psychological realism into models of political behavior. Two novel models allowing actors within political contexts to form beliefs in endogenous ways are then presented and discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)454-497
    Number of pages44
    JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 2006


    • Belief evolution
    • Bounded rationality
    • Mass political behavior
    • Preference formation
    • Psychology of groups

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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