Social Choice and Welfare

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 65-79

First online:

Aggregation of individuals' preference intensities into social preference intensity

  • Charles M. HarveyAffiliated withDepartment of Decision and Information Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204-6282, USA (e-mail:

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


A result of John Harsanyi concerns the aggregation of individuals' preferences into social preferences. The result states that if the individuals in a society and the society as a whole have preference relations that compare probability distributions on a set of outcomes, and the preference relations satisfy expected-utility conditions and Pareto conditions, then a utility function for the social preference relation is a positive affine function of utility functions for the individuals' preference relations. This paper presents an analogous result for preference relations that denote intensity of preference, i.e., preference relations that compare exchanges of outcomes. This approach avoids the difficulties of requiring that the individuals in the society have common beliefs regarding uncertainty.