Most theories of elections assume that voters and political
actors are fully rational. While these formulations produce many
insights, they also generate anomalies--most famously, about
turnout. The rise of behavioral economics has posed new challenges
to the premise of rationality. This groundbreaking book provides a
behavioral theory of elections based on the notion that all
actors--politicians as well as voters--are only boundedly rational.
The theory posits learning via trial and error: actions that
surpass an actor's aspiration level are more likely to be used in
the future, while those that fall short are less likely to be tried
Based on this idea of adaptation, the authors construct formal
models of party competition, turnout, and voters' choices of
candidates. These models predict substantial turnout levels, voters
sorting into parties, and winning parties adopting centrist
platforms. In multiparty elections, voters are able to coordinate
vote choices on majority-preferred candidates, while all candidates
garner significant vote shares. Overall, the behavioral theory and
its models produce macroimplications consistent with the data on
elections, and they use plausible microassumptions about the
cognitive capacities of politicians and voters. A computational
model accompanies the book and can be used as a tool for further
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