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Rationele Keuzetheorie


Exchange students: please note this course has content overlap with Rational Choice Theory and cannot be taken in combination with it

Study Planning
Note that in year 2, students can choose to take either Contemporary Political Philosophy in block 3 or Rational Choice Theory in block 4, and are allowed to register only for one of the two courses.
This choice will have consequences for your study load in block 3 or 4. If you decide to take Contemporary Political Philosophy, your study load in block 3 will be 3 lecture based courses plus a semester workgroup course, and 2 lecture based courses plus a semester workgroup course in block 4. (Or, vice versa if you choose for Rational Choice Theory in block 4).


Assume a person has certain preferences over various possible outcomes of a situation in which she finds herself, and that one of the things determining which possible outcome will actually occur is a choice she is about to make. To what principles must her choice conform, in order for her choice to be a rational one? This question is the fundamental question of rational choice theory, and this course will examine the main concepts and principles normally used to answer it. The first part of the course will be devoted to introducing some well-known (classical) theories in this rational tradition. We also discuss the violations of rational choice assumptions, and you will be introduced to some alternative approaches to modeling decision making, such as behavioral theory of rational behavior/choice. The second part of the course will be devoted to game theory, which is the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between rational decision-makers. Originally, it addressed situations in which one person's gains result in losses for the other participants. Today, game theory applies to a wide range of behavioral relations, and is now a term describing the science of logical decision making in humans, animals, and computers. The third and final part of the course will be devoted to some current applications of not only these rational choice theories but also of these game theoretical models in international relations and comparative politics.

Course objectives

Objective 1: To introduce key concepts of rational choice theory.
Objective 2: To give an overview of the ideas of classical and contemporary scholars working in this tradition.
Objective 3: To show the how rational choice is used in current research.
Objective 4: To introduce the violations of rational choice and some of available explanations and solutions to it.

Mode of instruction

Plenary lectures centered around the literature and student questions.

Course Load

  • Attending lectures: 4h x 7 weeks = 28h

  • Readings for the course: 6h x 7 weeks = 42h

Assessment method

A 3 hours final exam with multiple choice questions.

The time and location of inspection and debriefing of the exam will be announced via Blightspace no later than the publication of the grades.

Reading list

Below books are required for the course. Except the first one, the others are available online and the link to them via Leiden Catalogue will be provided on Brightspace.
1. Kenneth A. Shepsle (2010). Analyzing Politics: Rationality, Behavior and Instititutions, 2nd Edition.Second edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 560 pp.
2. Martin J. Osborne (2003).An Introduction to Game Theory. Illustrated edition. New York: OxfordUniversity Press. 560 pp.
3. Jonathan Bendor et al. (Jan. 17, 2011). A Behavioral Theory of Elections. Publication Title: A Behavioral Theory of Elections. Princeton University Press


See tab 'Practical Information

Timetable courses and exams

See 'MyTimetable