The New Science of Pleasure
Daniel L. McFadden
NBER Working Paper No. 18687
January 2013, Revised February 2013
JEL No. D03,D1
Economists since the days of Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham have traditionally viewed consumers as driven by relentless and consistent pursuit of self-interest, with their choices in the marketplace providing all the measurements needed to reveal their preferences and assess their well-being. This theory of consumer choice is empirically successful, and provides the foundation for most economic policy. However, the traditional view is now being challenged by evidence from cognitive psychology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, and neurology. This paper begins by surveying the origins of neoclassical consumer choice theory and recent developments. Following this, it reviews the newer evidence on consumer behavior, and what this implies for the measurement of consumer choice behaviour and well-being.