rational choice theory (RCT)

  

Definition

Attempts to explain all (conforming and deviant) social phenomenon in terms of how self-interested individuals make choices under the influence of their preferences. It treats social exchange as similar to economic exchange where all parties try to maximize their advantage or gain, and to minimize their disadvantage or loss. RCT's basic premises are that (1) human beings base their behavior on rational calculations, (2) they act with rationality when making choices, (3) their choices are aimed at optimization of their pleasure or profit. This concept has applications in economics and marketing, and in criminology and international relations. RCT, however, cannot explain the existence of certain social phenomenon such as altruism, reciprocity, and trust, and why individuals voluntarily join associations and groups where collective and not individual benefits are pursued. Not to be confused with theory of rational expectations. Also called theory of reasoned action.

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