I Choose for Myself, Therefore I Am
The Contours of Existentialist Behavioral Economics
Behavioral economics and existentialism both present informative perspectives on human choice. We argue in this article that the dialogue between the two approaches can enrich the current debate about the normative implications of behavioral economics. While behavioral economics suggests that our capacity to choose is constrained by cognitive biases and environmental influences, existentialism emphasizes that we can (and should) treat ourselves as free and ‘becoming’ beings in spite of the many constraints we face. Acknowledging these two perspectives in the form of a theoretical synthesis—which we propose to call existentialist behavioral economics—provides us with reasons why we should protect our choices ‘as our own’ and how doing so may be more difficult than we anticipate. It also provides a framework to analyze the threat of identity-shaping social and technological developments, such as preference-altering nudges and artificially intelligent prediction algorithms.