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A Model of Path-Dependence in Decisions over Multiple Propositions


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.

Corresponding author
Lecturer in Political Science, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, U.K. (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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