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Unit 2

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Unit 2

  1. 1. RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY Unit 2
  2. 2. Introduction  Rational choice theory is the view that people behave as they do because they believe that performing their chosen actions has more benefits than costs.  That is, people make rational choices based on their goals, and those choices govern their behavior.  Some sociologists use rational choice theory to explain social change. According to them, social change occurs because individuals have made rational choices.
  3. 3. Contd…  For example, suppose many people begin to conserve more energy, lowering thermostats and driving less. An explanation for this social change is that individual people have decided that conserving energy will help them achieve their goals (for example, save money and live more healthfully) and cause little inconvenience.  Critics argue people do not always act on the basis of cost- benefit analyses.
  4. 4. Assumptions  Humans are purposive and goal oriented.  Humans have sets of hierarchically ordered preferences, or utilities.  In choosing lines of behavior, humans make rational calculations with respect to:  the utility of alternative lines of conduct with reference to the preference hierarchy  the costs of each alternative in terms of utilities foregone  the best way to maximize utility.
  5. 5. Contd…  Emergent social phenomena -- social structures, collective decisions, and collective behavior -- are ultimately the result of rational choices made by utility-maximizing individuals.  Emergent social phenomena that arise from rational choices constitute a set of parameters for subsequent rational choices of individuals in the sense that they determine:  the distribution of resources among individuals  the distribution of opportunities for various lines of behavior  the distribution and nature of norms and obligations in a situation.
  6. 6. Contd…  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.
  7. 7. RCT's basic premises 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.  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.

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