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A model of path-dependence in decisions over multiple propositions

Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Association
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  • Ja Political Science (General)
  • Logic


I model sequential decisions over multiple interconnected propositions and investigate path-dependence in such decisions. The propositions and their interconnections are represented in propositional logic. A sequential decision process is path-dependent if its outcome depends on the order in which the propositions are considered. Assuming that earlier decisions constrain later ones, I prove three main results: First, certain rationality violations by the decision-making agent – individual or group – are necessary and sufficient for path-dependence. Second, under some conditions, path-dependence is unavoidable in decisions made by groups. Third, path-dependence makes decisions vulnerable to strategic agenda setting and strategic voting. I also discuss escape-routes from path-dependence. My results are relevant to discussions on collective consistency and reason-based decisionmaking, focusing not only on outcomes, but also on underlying reasons, beliefs and constraints.

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