Rational Choice Theory: A Cultural Reconsideration



Economists have heralded the formulation of the expected utility theorem as a universal method of choice under uncertainty. In their seminal paper, Stigler and Becker (Stigler & Becker, 1977) declared that “human behavior can be explained by a generalized calculus of utility-maximizing behavior” (p.76).
The universality of the rational choice theory has been widely criticized by psychologists, political scientists, feminists, philosophers and other social thinkers. Tversky and Kahneman (1986) have shown that the framing of choice problems can influence the decisions. Herber Simon (1959) and James March (1958) have pioneered models of bounded rationality. Paula England (1993) refers to works of some feminist philosophers who believe that the concept of rationality is gender biased.
This paper challenges the rational choice decision-making model from a cultural viewpoint. In brief, this article will show that the expected utility theorem, as a decision making model, is compatible with the cultural norms and values that are often found in capitalist societies from which they come, Consequently, the absence of certain cultural values in non-capitalistic societies will yield alternative decision models.