Econometrica: Jan 1954, Volume 22, Issue 1

Intransitivity, Utility, and the Aggregation of Preference Patterns

https://doi.org/0012-9682(195401)22:1<1:IUATAO>2.0.CO;2-P
p. 1-13

Kenneth O. May

During the first half of the twentieth century, utility theory has been subjected to considerable criticism and refinement. The present paper is concerned with certain experimental evidence and theoretical arguments suggesting that utility theory, whether cardinal or ordinal, cannot reflect, even to an approximation, the existing preferences of individuals in many economic situations. The argument is based on the necessity of transitivity for utility, observed circularities of preferences, and a theoretical framework that predicts circularities in the presence of preferences based on numerous criteria.

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