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LIfBi Lectures: How to explain “irrational” behavior?

During his visit at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi), Prof. Dr. Clemens Kroneberg, University of Cologne, presented the Model of Frame Selection (MFS) as well as its added value and limitations in contrast to (primarily incentive-based) Rational Choice (RC) approaches from the field of decision theory.

In his lecture, Kroneberg introduced the core of MFS, namely the fact that it represents a dual process of information processing. According to this, people take rational decisions particularly when there are no (fitting) prefabricated routines cognitively available or when they do not become salient through situational stimuli.

Thus, the model includes two strands of action theory that are often regarded as contrary and are much debated by the scientific community: rational decision theory on the one hand and the rather culturalistic action theory on the other hand.

Practical examples from the field of family research, deviant behavior, as well as moral dilemmas for decision-making in times of crisis and, finally, transitions in the educational career were followed up by a subsequent workshop focusing on educational decisions. In the course of this workshop, the model was put into the context of various research projects of LIfBi staff—for example, decisions in favor or against early childhood education/care in external facilities, private further education, as well as (high) educational aspirations of people with a migrant background, or the correlation of habitus, cultural capital, and educational success, or the way to school (distance) and educational success. Empirical implementation and possible alternatives were discussed as well.

This showed that RC can be regarded as sufficient or even more economical in the context of many research questions. In other cases, however, MFS is more suitable for representing the actual decision-making processes, especially when these depend not only on incentives but also on norms, entrenched habits, and so on. Considering this “variable rationality”, also seemingly “irrational” behavior can be explained well.

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