Three Analyses of Sour Grapes

  • Brian Hill
Part of the Theory and Decision Library book series (TDLA, volume 42)

The phenomenon of adaptive preferences — sometimes also known under the name of sour grapes — has long caused a stir in Social Theory, mainly because of its importance in the debate over utilitarianism. The question of preference change has been considered by decision theorists and, more recently, logicians. The former phenomenon seems a natural candidate for application of the latter theories. The fundamental question of sour grapes is: what is it that changes — the agent's beliefs or his utilities? The aim of this paper is to consider the replies that decision theorists and logicians can offer to this question. Besides the interest of the phenomenon as a case study for theories of change, it raises two general points. Firstly, besides a belief change and a utility change, there is a third possibility for the source of a given change in preferences: a change in the decision-maker's perception of the choice he is faced with. Secondly, traditional methods for eliciting beliefs and utilities do not function well in cases where several situations are involved and the relations between the agent's attitudes in the different situations are at issue. An elicitation method is sketched which purports to deal more adequately with such cases. Although based on independent motivations, it provides another argument for the importance of taking into account how the decision-maker perceives the choice he is faced with.


Belief Revision Decision Situation Belief Change Elicitation Method Causal Decision Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Hill
    • 1
  1. 1.GREGHEC, HEC Paris and IHPST. 1 rue de la Libe'rationJouy-en-JosasFrance

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