Clemens Kroneberg, Frank Kalter
Rational Choice Theory and Empirical Research: Methodological and Theoretical Contributions in Europe

Annual Review of Sociology, 2012: 38, p. 73-92
ISSN: 0360-0572

Rational choice theory (RCT) constitutes a major approach of sociological theorizing and research in Europe. We review key methodological and theoretical contributions that have arisen from the increasing empirical application of RCT and have the potential to stimulate the development of RCT and sociology more generally. Methodologically, discussions have evolved around how to test RCT empirically and how to realize its ambition to give theory-guidance to social research. These discussions have identified the strengths and shortcomings of direct and indirect test strategies using survey or experimental data. Metatheoretically, different views have emerged about how to deal with counterevidence from applied fields of sociological research. Whereas some argue for a wide version of RCT that allows a broad set of auxiliary assumptions about preferences, expectations, and constraints, others advocate a major overhaul of RCT's core assumptions by incorporating additional concepts and mechanisms.