Title: Rational choice, independent utility and the inclusive classroom

Authors: Lisa Saunders

Addresses: Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, 412 North Pleasant Street, Amherst MA 01002-2900, USA

Abstract: Neoclassical models of individual utility maximisation seem logical and consistent to many students; however, they can seem unrealistic and alienating to many others. When students have such misgivings acknowledged, they are more open to learning. This article describes an in-class exercise designed to allow undergraduates to examine their own motivations and choices. When students identify and compare their diverse motivations to the widely assumed motivations of selfishness and individualism, they gain important critical thinking skills. This, in turn, facilitates their development of insight into, and confidence about their abilities to learn and critique rational choice theoretical models. Greater familiarity with abstraction in the development of theoretical arguments makes students more open to learning heterodox theories, methods and policy debates.

Keywords: utility maximisation; individual labour supply; gender and work; under-represented economics majors; economics education; rational choice assumptions; pluralistic economics education; experiential learning; inclusivity.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPEE.2017.088749

International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, 2017 Vol.8 No.3, pp.312 - 317

Received: 19 Oct 2016
Accepted: 16 Apr 2017

Published online: 17 Dec 2017 *

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