Addictions are not rational: A socio-economic model of addictive behavior

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Intuitively, most of us think of addictive behavior as unwise, excessive, overindulgent, compulsive, something to be regretted, ultimately destructive, and, of course, irrational. Mainstream economists, following Gary Becker’s lead, know better. Addictive behavior, they say, is like all other economic behavior; it is economically rational. There are two main purposes of this paper. One is to explain why addictive behavior is not rational. The other is to develop a socio-economic model of addictive behavior that is an alternative to economists’ rational addiction theory. The explanation and the model draw on the insights of a variety of behavioral disciplines, especially psychologists, and combine these with economic concepts. It is hoped that these interdisciplinary theoretical perspectives will help us see addiction in a true light and help us connect to our natural intuition and wisdom concerning these matters.




Tomer, J. F. (2001). Addictions are not rational: A socio-economic model of addictive behavior. Journal of Socio-Economics, 30(3), 243–261.

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