Rational Choice Theory: Merits and Limitations

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The objective of this paper is to provide insight into Rational Choice Theory. This theory, highly relied upon by many disciplines, is also used to calculate and determine crime and criminal behavior. Through definition, example and techniques utilized by criminologists, the reader will have a better understanding of the subject.

By definition, criminology is the study of crime, criminal behavior and how it pertains to the law. Criminology is considered a scientific technique. Therefore, those who study and carry out its theories are considered scientists. The theories and practices within the subject help criminologists determine the cause and consequence of criminal behavior; also why criminology is so highly regarded among law enforcement and the legal world.

Socioeconomic status, psychological behaviors and of course, the legal aspect are just a few factors criminologists analyze when determining criminal behavior. The next few paragraphs will provide an explanation of rational choice theory and the various factors that are studied to determine how criminologists categorize crime and criminal behavior. Along with an explanation of the theory will be an example of how that theory is utilized in the justice system.

While many theories are explored, rational choice theory is the most commonly used in both criminology and law enforcement. The idea is that each individual is free to decide which activities or behaviors they engage in. It is believed the individual makes their decision based on rationally calculating which behaviors will potentially provide them with more pleasure versus pain. In simpler terms, the person mentally weighs the pros and cons of their behaviors before they act them out.

Rational choice theory is ...

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...ity. For example, economics applies rational choice when formulating hypotheses to determine things such as market behavior. These hypotheses provide empirical evidence that will then provide economists with found information that will assist them in predicting economic behavior. A well known example of this evidence is the idea of supply and demand.

In regards to rational choice theory, my opinion lies somewhere in between believer and nonbeliever. The research that supports both the theory’s merits and limitations appears to be minimal and lacking true empirical evidence. However, I believe there is reasoning for all we do and all that is done. With that being said, I would have to say that I am a believer of rational choice theory. It is my belief and personal opinion, that even when making choices irrationally, our actions can, to some degree be rationalized.
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