Behavioral Finance Lecture 01: Debunking Revealed Preference

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I lec­ture on Behav­ioral Finance at the Uni­ver­si­ty of West­ern Syd­ney this semes­ter, and will record all my lec­tures and post them on my YouTube Chan­nel Prof­Steve­Keen. In this first lec­ture (after the usu­al pre­lim­i­nar­ies of explain­ing assess­ment and the like to my 85 third year stu­dents), I cov­er the Neo­clas­si­cal the­o­ry of con­sumer behav­ior.

As I note to my stu­dents, the con­cept I teach here–Revealed Preference–was taught in 1st year 40 years ago, when I was an fresh­er under­grad­u­ate. But the tuition of Neo­clas­si­cal eco­nom­ics has been so dumb­ed down over the years that my 3rd year stu­dents had­n’t heard of it before. I expect it’s reserved as pun­ish­ment for those who under­take an Hon­ors degree these days!

After out­lin­ing the the­o­ry, I then cov­er the excel­lent exper­i­men­tal dis­proof of the the­o­ry by the Ger­man econ­o­mists Rein­hard Sip­pel:

Sip­pel, R. (1997). “An Exper­i­ment on the Pure The­o­ry of Con­sumer’s Behav­iour.” The Eco­nom­ic Jour­nal 107 (444): 1431–1444.

I’m sure that dis­prov­ing the the­o­ry was­n’t Sip­pel’s orig­i­nal inten­tion. Instead, I sus­pect that he under­took the exper­i­ment to show to his stu­dents that their “indif­fer­ence curves” could be inferred from their pur­chas­es, as Samuel­son claimed long ago when he dreamed up the con­cept of Revealed Pref­er­ence:

Samuel­son, P. A. (1938). “A Note on the Pure The­o­ry of Con­sumer’s Behav­iour.” Eco­nom­i­ca 5 (17): 61–71.

Instead, Sip­pel found that his exper­i­men­tal sub­jects vio­lat­ed the “Axioms of Revealed Pref­er­ence”.

In the first half of the lec­ture, I cov­er the axioms of revealed pref­er­ence, and Sip­pel’s results:

In the sec­ond half, I inter­pret these results using ideas from com­pu­ta­tion the­o­ry:

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About Steve Keen

I am Professor of Economics and Head of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University London, and a long time critic of conventional economic thought. As well as attacking mainstream thought in Debunking Economics, I am also developing an alternative dynamic approach to economic modelling. The key issue I am tackling here is the prospect for a debt-deflation on the back of the enormous private debts accumulated globally, and our very low rate of inflation.