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Agentic preferences: a foundation for nudging when preferences are endogenous


Fabian, M and Dold, M, Agentic preferences: a foundation for nudging when preferences are endogenous, Behavioural Public Policy pp. 1-21. ISSN 2398-063X (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License, ( which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

DOI: doi:10.1017/bpp.2022.17


Since the publication of the seminal book Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, several critics have highlighted preference endogeneity as a serious obstacle to nudging. When individuals hold preferences that are dynamic and endogenous to the nudge frame, it is unclear what the normative benchmark for libertarian paternalistic policies should be. While acknowledging this issue, the pro-nudging camp has not yet sufficiently addressed it. This article aims to fill this void by presenting a conditional defence of nudging when preferences are endogenous. We explain the learning process through which individuals establish 'agentic' preferences: preferences that are sufficiently stable, reasonable, autonomous and associated with organismic well-being to ground the 'welfare' principle of libertarian paternalism. To describe this process, we draw on theories from psychological science, in particular self-discrepancy theory and self-determination theory. We argue that agentic preferences are not only welfare-relevant and thus appropriate to libertarian paternalism but can also be identified by choice architects.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:preferences, welfare, agency, nudges, behavioural policy
Research Division:Economics
Research Group:Applied economics
Research Field:Welfare economics
Objective Division:Economic Framework
Objective Group:Microeconomics
Objective Field:Preference, behaviour and welfare
UTAS Author:Fabian, M (Dr Mark Fabian)
ID Code:153610
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:CALE Research Institute
Deposited On:2022-09-27
Last Modified:2023-01-10
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