Rational Choice Theory is a widely accepted theory in social science that explains how people make decisions based on their preferences and the available options. According to this theory, individuals will make rational choices that maximize their benefits and minimize their costs. This article will explore the concept of Rational Choice Theory and its applications in social science research.

History and Development of Rational Choice Theory

Rational Choice Theory has its roots in economics, where it was developed to explain how individuals make choices about spending money. The theory assumes that people are rational actors who have complete information about all available options and can calculate the potential outcomes of each option.

In the 1950s, sociologists started using Rational Choice Theory to study human behavior outside of economic contexts. They applied the theory to topics like voting behavior, criminal activity, and social movements. Today, Rational Choice Theory is used across multiple disciplines, including political science, sociology, psychology, and anthropology.

Basic Assumptions of Rational Choice Theory

Rational Choice Theory rests on three basic assumptions:

Critiques of Rational Choice Theory

While Rational Choice Theory has been influential in social science research, it has also received criticism from scholars who argue that its basic assumptions are unrealistic. Critics argue that people often do not have complete information or certainty about outcomes when making decisions.

Additionally, critics point out that people’s preferences are often influenced by social norms or cultural values rather than solely by individual calculations of costs and benefits. Finally, critics argue that people often make decisions that do not maximize their individual benefits but instead benefit the group they belong to or society as a whole.

Applications of Rational Choice Theory

Despite its critiques, Rational Choice Theory has been used to explain a wide range of human behaviors. Here are a few examples:


Rational Choice Theory is an important theory in social science research that helps us understand how people make choices. While it has its limitations, it has been used to explain a wide range of human behaviors and continues to be influential in multiple disciplines. By understanding how individuals make choices, we can better understand and predict human behavior in a variety of contexts.