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A Behavioral Theory of Elections

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

"Traditional approaches in political science and economics have failed to explain why people vote or take other actions that apparently have no basis in self-interest. In this pathbreaking book, the authors provide the analytical foundations for a new behavioral theory of political participation."--Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University

"The authors apply the insights of psychology and bounded rationality to construct a new foundation for our understanding of how voters and politicians behave in complex strategic environments. Bold and highly original, this fascinating book is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in elections and will fundamentally reshape how we think about political behavior."--Alan Gerber, Yale University

"Given the complexity of social processes, many social scientists question the assumption of rationality underlying game theoretic models of elections. The natural solution, to assume bounded rationality, has been stifled by the abundance of possible alternative models. This wonderful book examines a class of models grounded in aspiration-based learning and shows how they produce deep, explanatory insights into voter choice, turnout, party competition, and electoral outcomes. A tour de force!"--Scott E. Page, author of The Difference and Diversity and Complexity

"Distinctive in its use of aspiration-based adjustment models as a replacement for the traditional rational choice approaches, this book is clearly the first to develop a coherent model of elections based on reinforcement learning. Clearly written and effectively presented, it will advance the debate on the use of both behavioral and rational choice models in political science."--Mark Fey, University of Rochester

Synopsis:

"Distinctive in its use of aspiration-based adjustment models as a replacement for the traditional rational choice approaches, this book is clearly the first to develop a coherent model of elections based on reinforcement learning. Clearly written and effectively presented, it will advance the debate on the use of both behavioral and rational choice models in political science."--Mark Fey, University of Rochester

Synopsis:

"Traditional approaches in political science and economics have failed to explain why people vote or take other actions that apparently have no basis in self-interest. In this pathbreaking book, the authors provide the analytical foundations for a new behavioral theory of political participation."--Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University

"The authors apply the insights of psychology and bounded rationality to construct a new foundation for our understanding of how voters and politicians behave in complex strategic environments. Bold and highly original, this fascinating book is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in elections and will fundamentally reshape how we think about political behavior."--Alan Gerber, Yale University

"Given the complexity of social processes, many social scientists question the assumption of rationality underlying game theoretic models of elections. The natural solution, to assume bounded rationality, has been stifled by the abundance of possible alternative models. This wonderful book examines a class of models grounded in aspiration-based learning and shows how they produce deep, explanatory insights into voter choice, turnout, party competition, and electoral outcomes. A tour de force!"--Scott E. Page, author of The Difference and Diversity and Complexity

"Distinctive in its use of aspiration-based adjustment models as a replacement for the traditional rational choice approaches, this book is clearly the first to develop a coherent model of elections based on reinforcement learning. Clearly written and effectively presented, it will advance the debate on the use of both behavioral and rational choice models in political science."--Mark Fey, University of Rochester

Synopsis:

Most theories of elections assume that voters and political actors are fully rational. While these formulations produce many insights, they also generate anomalies--most famously, about turnout. The rise of behavioral economics has posed new challenges to the premise of rationality. This groundbreaking book provides a behavioral theory of elections based on the notion that all actors--politicians as well as voters--are only boundedly rational. The theory posits learning via trial and error: actions that surpass an actor's aspiration level are more likely to be used in the future, while those that fall short are less likely to be tried later.

Based on this idea of adaptation, the authors construct formal models of party competition, turnout, and voters' choices of candidates. These models predict substantial turnout levels, voters sorting into parties, and winning parties adopting centrist platforms. In multiparty elections, voters are able to coordinate vote choices on majority-preferred candidates, while all candidates garner significant vote shares. Overall, the behavioral theory and its models produce macroimplications consistent with the data on elections, and they use plausible microassumptions about the cognitive capacities of politicians and voters. A computational model accompanies the book and can be used as a tool for further research.

About the Author

Jonathan Bendor is the Walter and Elise Haas Professor of Political Economics and Organizations at Stanford University. Daniel Diermeier is the IBM Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice and professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Northwestern University. David A. Siegel is assistant professor of political science at Florida State University. Michael M. Ting is associate professor of political science and public affairs at Columbia University.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Chapter One: Bounded Rationality and Elections 1
1.1 Framing and Representations 5
1.2 Heuristics 8
1.3 Aspiration-based Adaptation and Bounded Rationality 12
1.4 Plan of This Book 21

Chapter Two: Aspiration-based Adaptive Rules 23
2.1 ABARs Defined 23
2.2 Some Important Properties of ABARs 33
2.3 The Evidential Status of Aspiration-based Adaptation 46

Chapter Three: Party Competition 52
3.1 Related Work 54
3.2 The Model and Its Implications 56
3.3 Informed and/or Sophisticated Challengers 68
3.4 Robustness Issues 74
3.5 Conclusions 78

Chapter Four: Turnout 80
4.1 The Model 82
4.2 Main Results 85
4.3 Variations in Participation 96
4.4 Conclusions 107

Chapter Five: Voter Choice 109
5.1 The Model 112
5.2 The Endogenous Emergence of Party Affiliation 116
5.3 Misperceptions 121
5.4 Retrospection and Prospection Combined 122
5.5 Voter Sophistication and Electoral Outcomes 124
5.6 Institutions and Unsophisticated Retrospective Voters 128
5.7 Conclusions 130

Chapter Six: An Integrated Model of Two-Party Elections 132
6.1 Full Computational Model for Two Parties 134
6.2 Some Results of the Basic Integrated Model 138
6.3 The Choices of Voters 141
6.4 Party Location 145
6.5 Turnout 148
6.6 New Questions 152
6.7 Conclusion 159

Chapter Seven: Elections with Multiple Parties 161
7.1 Extending Our Results to Multiple Parties 161
7.2 Multicandidate Competition and Duverger's Law 166
7.3 The Model and Simulation Results 173
7.4 An Intuition 180
7.5 ABARs and Dynamic Stability 183
7.6 Model Meets Data 184

Chapter Eight: Conclusions: Bounded Rationality and Elections 191
8.1 Testing the Theory 194
8.2 Normative Considerations: Voter Error and Systemic Performance 196
8.3 Extensions 198

Appendix A: Proofs 205
Appendix B: The Computational Model 215
B.1 Overview 215
B.2 Graphical Model 216
B.3 Batch Model 229
Bibliography 233
Index 249

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691135076
Author:
Bendor, Jonathan
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
Siegel, David A.
Author:
Diermeier, Daniel
Author:
Ting, Michael M.
Subject:
Political Process - Elections
Subject:
Economics - Theory
Subject:
Elections
Subject:
Political Science and International Relations
Subject:
Sociology
Subject:
Politics - General
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
30 line illus.
Pages:
264
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 13 oz

Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Psychology » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General

A Behavioral Theory of Elections New Trade Paper
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$38.25 Backorder
Product details 264 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691135076 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , "Distinctive in its use of aspiration-based adjustment models as a replacement for the traditional rational choice approaches, this book is clearly the first to develop a coherent model of elections based on reinforcement learning. Clearly written and effectively presented, it will advance the debate on the use of both behavioral and rational choice models in political science."--Mark Fey, University of Rochester
"Synopsis" by , "Traditional approaches in political science and economics have failed to explain why people vote or take other actions that apparently have no basis in self-interest. In this pathbreaking book, the authors provide the analytical foundations for a new behavioral theory of political participation."--Stephen Ansolabehere, Harvard University

"The authors apply the insights of psychology and bounded rationality to construct a new foundation for our understanding of how voters and politicians behave in complex strategic environments. Bold and highly original, this fascinating book is essential reading for anyone with a serious interest in elections and will fundamentally reshape how we think about political behavior."--Alan Gerber, Yale University

"Given the complexity of social processes, many social scientists question the assumption of rationality underlying game theoretic models of elections. The natural solution, to assume bounded rationality, has been stifled by the abundance of possible alternative models. This wonderful book examines a class of models grounded in aspiration-based learning and shows how they produce deep, explanatory insights into voter choice, turnout, party competition, and electoral outcomes. A tour de force!"--Scott E. Page, author of The Difference and Diversity and Complexity

"Distinctive in its use of aspiration-based adjustment models as a replacement for the traditional rational choice approaches, this book is clearly the first to develop a coherent model of elections based on reinforcement learning. Clearly written and effectively presented, it will advance the debate on the use of both behavioral and rational choice models in political science."--Mark Fey, University of Rochester

"Synopsis" by , Most theories of elections assume that voters and political actors are fully rational. While these formulations produce many insights, they also generate anomalies--most famously, about turnout. The rise of behavioral economics has posed new challenges to the premise of rationality. This groundbreaking book provides a behavioral theory of elections based on the notion that all actors--politicians as well as voters--are only boundedly rational. The theory posits learning via trial and error: actions that surpass an actor's aspiration level are more likely to be used in the future, while those that fall short are less likely to be tried later.

Based on this idea of adaptation, the authors construct formal models of party competition, turnout, and voters' choices of candidates. These models predict substantial turnout levels, voters sorting into parties, and winning parties adopting centrist platforms. In multiparty elections, voters are able to coordinate vote choices on majority-preferred candidates, while all candidates garner significant vote shares. Overall, the behavioral theory and its models produce macroimplications consistent with the data on elections, and they use plausible microassumptions about the cognitive capacities of politicians and voters. A computational model accompanies the book and can be used as a tool for further research.

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