Journal of Evolutionary Economics

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 39–60 | Cite as

The impossibility of rational consumer choice

A problem and its solution
  • Jakob KapellerEmail author
  • Bernhard Schütz
  • Stefan Steinerberger
Regular Article


In this paper we show that a rational consumer choice along the lines traditionally suggested might lead to paradoxical results if one considers multidimensional goods, which incorporate a series of incommensurable aspects. Thereby, we explore the similarity between the resulting paradox and Kenneth Arrow’s well known Impossibility Theorem. Based on these considerations we suggest a solution for the former problem along the lines of Herbert Simon and Amos Tversky, which might—if driven to its extreme—even provide a unique and arguably rational solution for consumer choice among multidimensional goods. Eventually, we argue that the resulting framework poses a potentially useful starting point for further developing an evolutionary theory of consumer choice.


Demand Consumption Rationality Choice Evolutionary economics 

JEL Classification

B52 D01 D11 D71 



The authors are grateful to an anonymous referee for helpful suggestions and to Michael Landesmann for fruitful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jakob Kapeller
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bernhard Schütz
    • 2
  • Stefan Steinerberger
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Theory of ScienceUniversity of LinzLinzAustria
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of LinzLinzAustria
  3. 3.Mathematical InstituteUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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