Lectio Magistralis by prof. Robert Sugden

22 January 2015
Versione stampabile

Venue: Aula Kessler, Department of Sociology and Social Research – via Verdi 26, Trento
2 pm

  • Lectio Magistralis by prof. Robert Sugden - University of East Anglia
"Preference purification and the inner rational agent: a critique of the conventional wisdom of behavioural welfare economics"


Neoclassical economics assumes that individuals have stable and context-independent preferences, and uses preference-satisfaction as a normative criterion. By calling this assumption into question, behavioural findings cause fundamental problems for normative economics.
A common response to these problems is to treat deviations from conventional rational-choice theory as mistakes, and to try to reconstruct the preferences that individuals would have acted on, had they reasoned correctly.
We argue that this preference purification approach implicitly uses a dualistic model of the human being, in which an inner rational agent is trapped in an outer psychological shell.
This model is psychologically and philosophically problematic.

Robert Sugden is Professor of Economics at the University of East Anglia.
His research uses a combination of theoretical, experimental and philosophical methods to investigate issues in welfare economics, social choice, choice under uncertainty, the foundations of decision and game theory, the methodology of economics, and the evolution of social conventions.

He is the author or editor of eight books, of which the most widely-read are Principles of Practical Cost-benefit Analysis (1978, with Alan Williams) and Economics of Rights, Co-operation and Welfare (1986 and 2004).

He is the author of over 100 papers in refereed journals including American Economic Review, American Political Science Review, Econometrica, Economic Journal, Games and Economic Behavior, Journal of Economic Literature, Journal of Economic Theory, Journal of Philosophy, Review of Economic Studies, and Quarterly Journal of Economics.

He is one of the few UK economists included in the ISI Highly Cited list.