Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Revealed Preference


Revealed preference is an economic theory that assumes consumers’ preferences can be identified by observing their purchasing habits and spending behavior. It suggests that by monitoring the choices individuals make, especially around consumption, economists can determine what they value or prefer. This concept is used to study and model consumer behavior and to make predictions about future buying habits.


The phonetics of the keyword “Revealed Preference” would be:rih-veeld pref-er-uhns

Key Takeaways

1. Assumption of Rationality: The theory of Revealed Preference is based on the assumption that consumers behave rationally. This means that given a set of options, a consumer will always choose the one that provides the greatest level of satisfaction or utility.2. Consistent Choices Over Time: The theory posits that if a consumer prefers good A over good B at a certain time, they will still prefer good A over good B in the future, providing that their income and the prices of the goods remain constant. This is also known as the law of consistent choices.3. Preferences Derived from Actual Choices: Unlike other economic theories that infer preferences from observed behaviors, the theory of revealed preference derives preferences from actual choices made by consumers. The theory thus provides a more realistic and practical approach to understanding consumer behavior.


Revealed Preference is a crucial concept in business and finance primarily as it offers an empirical basis for analyzing consumer behavior, enabling economists and businesses to understand and predict purchasing decisions. Instead of relying on subjective reports of preference or satisfaction, revealed preference theory studies actual consumer choices to deduce their relative value for different goods or services. By examining these observable behaviors, companies can tailor their products or marketing strategies to align better with consumers’ revealed preferences and maximize their potential for profit. In essence, it provides critical insights into consumers’ decision-making criteria, making it a key principle in economic theory and market strategy.


The purpose of the concept of Revealed Preference is rooted in understanding consumer behavior in an economic setting. It serves as a method for analyzing choices made by consumers, meant to reveal their preferences. Developed by economist Paul Samuelson in 1938, it essentially posits that the preferences of consumers can be revealed by their purchasing habits. In other words, the actual choices that an individual makes in a marketplace are assumed to reflect their underlying preference for certain goods or services over others.Revealed preference is used by economists and market analysts to deduce patterns in consumer preferences and to understand how these preferences shape demand curves and market tendencies. For example, if a consumer consistently chooses product A over product B when both are available, their preference for product A is revealed. These patterns can then be used to make estimations about consumer behavior and to model market dynamics. Thus, revealed preference theory provides a framework for predicting economic outcomes and guiding economic policies based on empirical observations of consumer behavior.


1. Consumer Shopping Habits: The general principle of revealed preference can be observed in daily life through common consumer habits. For example, consider an individual who repeatedly chooses to shop at a particular grocery store, despite having other options available. This behavior indicates a revealed preference for this particular store, which may be due to various factors such as the store’s product offering, prices, location, customer service, or even brand image.2. Housing Market: In the real estate market, the concept of revealed preference is used to infer individuals’ preferences based on their housing choices. For instance, by observing an individual choosing to live in a more expensive city center apartment instead of a cheap suburban house (despite having option for both), we can infer his/her preference based on the choice made, which in this case might be the proximity to workplaces, city facilities, or cultural venues.3. Transportation Choices: Another example of revealed preference can be observed in the public transportation choices. If an individual chooses to commute to work using a car, even when public transportation is available and cheaper, reflects a preference for privacy, convenience, or time efficiency. This decision reveals a preference for driving, despite the higher costs associated with it, such as fuel, car insurance, and maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the term ‘Revealed Preference’ mean in finance and business?

The term ‘Revealed Preference’ in finance and business refers to an economic theory that assumes consumers’ preferences can be revealed by their purchasing habits. It suggests that by observing their consumption behavior, one can determine what they prefer or value.

Who developed the Revealed Preference theory?

The Revealed Preference theory was developed by American economist Paul Samuelson in 1938.

How can the Revealed Preference theory be used in business decision-making?

Businesses can use the Revealed Preference theory for demand forecasting, product development, and marketing strategy formulation. By studying consumer behavior and expenditure patterns, they can understand what consumers prefer and tailor their offerings accordingly.

What is the basic assumption behind Revealed Preference theory?

The basic assumption behind Revealed Preference theory is that a consumer’s actions in the market place, specifically what they buy at different price points, reveal their underlying preferences among different choices.

What is the difference between Revealed Preference and Stated Preference?

Revealed Preference refers to the preferences of consumers inferred from their actual buying behavior, whereas Stated Preference refers to the preferences declared by consumers usually through surveys or interviews.

Can Revealed Preference theory be applied in the online shopping model?

Absolutely, online shopping platforms can gather substantial data about consumer buying behavior. This information can be used to infer their preferences, following the principles of the Revealed Preference theory.

Are there any limitations to Revealed Preference theory?

Yes, the Revealed Preference theory assumes buyers are rational, which may not be always true in real life. It also heavily relies on past or current behavior, which may not accurately predict future preferences especially in rapidly changing markets.

What is the ‘Weak Axiom of Revealed Preference’ (WARP)?

The ‘Weak Axiom of Revealed Preference’ (WARP) is a concept within the theory, which implies that if a bundle of goods A is chosen over another bundle B when both are affordable, then B will not be chosen when A is also affordable.

Related Finance Terms

Sources for More Information

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More