Assumptions of Rational Choice Theory
- 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.
- 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.
(Jonathan Turner 1991, The Structure of Sociological Theory, p. 354)