Studying imperfect rationality

Much of economic theory is based on the idea that humans are rational actors who carefully calculate the pros and cons of each decision. But what gets left out such a world view?  UCLA Public Policy Professor Mark Kleiman attempts to fill in the blanks in his course Imperfect Rationality (feed).

Or at least that’s what the course description says.  I’ve listened to the first two lectures, and find that the subject matter seems only peripherally related to the theme of imperfect rationality.  Instead it seems to be about broad theories that attempt to make sense of public behavior.

For example in the first lecture Kleiman discusses political correctness and then goes on to discuss political partisanship, and how political talk radio is similar to sports talk radio. Sports talk radio is a forum for fans of a particular team express solidarity with other fans. It is not a forum for dispassionate discussion of the merits of the home team. Someone who calls in to commend the referee for a decision against the home team would be violating the implicit contract that the show exists for fans to share their partisanship.

A similar dynamic exists in political talk radio. It’s a place to say “hurray for our side” and insult the opponents. It is not a place for rationally discussing the merits of a political issue.

A 2001 syllabus for the course is here.

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3 Responses to Studying imperfect rationality

  1. Alan says:

    I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying my retirement by continuing to learn from the wonderful free courses that are available online. And, I wish to thank you for this website that promotes that activity to people like me.

    I have a question for you. I notice that, in your post about the Imperfect Rationality course you have a link to a syllabus, and my question is, How did you find it?

    Whenever I take a course online, I always attempt to locate the syllabus. The syllabus is helpful in that it will list the titles of the text and other readings, which I sometimes purchase (also online, used, at places like so that I can the most out of the course. Even when a syllabus is for a prior year, as is the case in your post, it can still be helpful.

    The problem is that the only method I know of to find a syllabus is just to search the university’s website, looking for any hits on the course number or the course name combined with the word “syllabus”, etc.

    Is there a better approach? How did you find the 2001 syllabus for Imperfect Rationality?

    Regards, Alan

    • Dara says:

      Thanks for your comments. It’s always fun to hear that other people are enjoying the info on my blog.
      About finding syllabi — I basically ask Mr. Google. I search for the name of the prof and the word syllabus. If that doesn’t work, I try the name of the school, and the course title or course number. So here were my searches for the Imperfect Rationality course:

      mark kleiman ucla syllabus
      mark kleiman ucla syllabus “Imperfect Rationality”
      mark kleiman ucla syllabus 102

      The last one got me to the old syllabus that I posted. Sometimes I find links to the syllabi from the prof’s web page.

      I hope that helps.
      Happy learning!

  2. Pingback: Weekly Roundup 90: A Curated Linkfest For The Smartest People On The Web | SimoleonSense

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