Sophisticated Approval Voting, Ignorance Priors, and Plurality Heuristics: A Behavioral Social Choice Analysis in a Thurstonian Framework

Michel Regenwetter, Moon Ho R. Ho, Ilia Tsetlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This project reconciles historically distinct paradigms at the interface between individual and social choice theory, as well as between rational and behavioral decision theory. The authors combine a utility-maximizing prescriptive rule for sophisticated approval voting with the ignorance prior heuristic from behavioral decision research and two types of plurality heuristics to model approval voting behavior. When using a sincere plurality heuristic, voters simplify their decision process by voting for their single favorite candidate. When using a strategic plurality heuristic, voters strategically focus their attention on the 2 front-runners and vote for their preferred candidate among these 2. Using a hierarchy of Thurstonian random utility models, the authors implemented these different decision rules and tested them statistically on 7 real world approval voting elections. They cross-validated their key findings via a psychological Internet experiment. Although a substantial number of voters used the plurality heuristic in the real elections, they did so sincerely, not strategically. Moreover, even though Thurstonian models do not force such agreement, the results show, in contrast to common wisdom about social choice rules, that the sincere social orders by Condorcet, Borda, plurality, and approval voting are identical in all 7 elections and in the Internet experiment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)994-1014
Number of pages21
JournalPsychological review
Volume114
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2007

Keywords

  • approval voting
  • behavioral social choice
  • decision heuristics
  • expected utility
  • sophisticated voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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