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A Model of Path-Dependence in Decisions over Multiple Propositions

  • CHRISTIAN LIST (a1)
Abstract

I model sequential decisions over multiple interconnected propositions and investigate path-dependence in such decisions. The propositions and their interconnections are represented in propositional logic. A sequential decision process is path-dependent if its outcome depends on the order in which the propositions are considered. Assuming that earlier decisions constrain later ones, I prove three main results: First, certain rationality violations by the decision-making agent—individual or group—are necessary and sufficient for path-dependence. Second, under some conditions, path-dependence is unavoidable in decisions made by groups. Third, path-dependence makes decisions vulnerable to strategic agenda setting and strategic voting. I also discuss escape routes from path-dependence. My results are relevant to discussions on collective consistency and reason-based decision-making, focusing not only on outcomes, but also on underlying reasons, beliefs, and constraints.

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Corresponding author
Lecturer in Political Science, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, U.K. (c.list@lse.ac.uk).
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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