Accounting for Tastes by Gary Stanley BECKER
  • Title: Accounting for Tastes
  • Subtitle: None
  • Author(s): Gary Stanley BECKER, Gary S Becker
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Year: 2009-06-30
  • ISBN-10: 0674020650
  • ISBN-13: 9780674020658


In “Accounting for Tastes,” renowned economist Gary S. Becker provides readers with a comprehensive examination of the economic approach to studying human behavior. Drawing upon his expertise in behavioral economics, Becker delves into the realm of taste formation and preferences, challenging conventional theories and shedding new light on the subject. Through a series of in-depth analyses, he explores how tastes are developed, influenced, and changed by various factors, including social interactions, market forces, and cultural influences. By emphasizing the role of economics in understanding human behavior, Becker offers readers a thought-provoking and enlightening perspective on the complex relationship between individual choices and the broader societal context in which they occur.

With meticulous research and clarity of thought, “Accounting for Tastes” serves as a foundational text for those interested in the intersection of economics and human behavior. Applying his rigorous analytical approach, Becker explores a wide range of topics, from the economic determinants of taste to the implications for public policy and social welfare. Written in a conversational style that is accessible to both academics and general readers alike, the book offers an engaging exploration of why individuals develop certain preferences and how these preferences shape their decision-making in various spheres of life. With its timeless insights and provocative ideas, “Accounting for Tastes” showcases Gary S. Becker’s intellectual prowess and solidifies his status as a leading figure in the field of economics.

Book Review

In “Accounting for Tastes,” esteemed economist Gary S. Becker provides an illuminating exploration into the economic underpinnings of human behavior and taste formation. With his expertise in behavioral economics, Becker challenges existing paradigms and introduces new perspectives. Throughout the book, he delves deep into the intricate relationship between individual preferences and the broader social, cultural, and economic forces that influence them.

One of the key insights that Becker offers is his analysis of taste as a product of social interactions. He argues that individuals develop their preferences through a process of socialization, where interactions with others shape their choices. For instance, he illustrates how a person’s dietary habits are shaped by family, friends, and the wider community. By examining the role of social networks and peer influence, Becker provides a fresh perspective on the factors that impact our preferences.

Becker further explores the economic determinants of taste formation, drawing attention to the influence of market forces on individual choices. He elucidates the concept of “commodity differentiation” to explain how preferences are shaped by the availability of different goods and services. For example, he highlights how advertising can influence consumer behavior by creating a sense of differentiation between products that may be functionally similar. This analysis prompts readers to question the role of marketing and branding in shaping our tastes and preferences.

Moreover, Becker’s book delves into the ways in which cultural influences shape our tastes, emphasizing that preferences are not fixed but can change over time. He provides numerous examples, such as the evolution of fashion trends or shifts in musical preferences, to illustrate how cultural factors can impact individual choices. Through this examination, he highlights the complex interplay between taste, identity, and cultural context, broadening our understanding of the forces that mold our preferences.

“Accounting for Tastes” is meticulously researched, with Becker effectively weaving together theory, empirical evidence, and real-world examples throughout the book. His writing style is accessible and engaging, making complex economic concepts relatable to both experts and general readers. By emphasizing the economic approach to understanding behavior, Becker challenges readers to reconsider conventional wisdom and approaches to studying human preferences.

While the book’s focus is on taste formation, it also addresses broader societal implications. Becker highlights the implications for public policy, illustrating how understanding taste formation can inform strategies for addressing societal challenges. For instance, he discusses the design of public health interventions that take into account the factors that shape individuals’ dietary choices.

Overall, “Accounting for Tastes” is an influential and thought-provoking book that deepens our understanding of the economic factors that influence human behavior. Gary S. Becker’s insights and analyses shed new light on the intricate dynamics of taste formation, providing readers with a fresh perspective on the interplay between individual choices and the societal context in which they occur. This book is an invaluable resource for economists, social scientists, and anyone interested in exploring the fascinating intersection of economics and human behavior.

Word Count: 489

Target Audience

The book “Accounting for Tastes” by Gary S. Becker is targeted at a diverse audience interested in understanding the economic foundations of human behavior and preference formation. It is recommended reading for the following audiences:

  • Economists and Social Scientists “Accounting for Tastes” is an essential text for economists and social scientists looking to explore the economic dimensions of human behavior. Becker’s rigorous analysis, grounded in economic theory and empirical evidence, offers a valuable framework for understanding individuals’ choices and tastes within the broader societal context.

  • Students and Academics As a foundational text on behavioral economics, “Accounting for Tastes” is highly recommended for students and academics studying economics, psychology, sociology, and related fields. Becker’s clear writing style and comprehensive exploration of the subject make it accessible and engaging for readers at various levels of expertise.

  • Policy Makers and Public Administrators The book provides valuable insights into the design and implementation of public policies related to consumer behavior, market dynamics, and social welfare. Policy makers and public administrators who seek to understand the economic determinants behind individuals’ preferences will find this book enlightening and invaluable in shaping evidence-based policies.

  • General Readers Interested in Human Behavior “Accounting for Tastes” has a broader appeal as it offers a fascinating exploration of how taste and preference development impacts various aspects of our lives. Readers who are intrigued by the psychological and social factors that underlie human behavior, from consumer choices to cultural shifts, will gain a deeper understanding of these phenomena through Becker’s insightful analysis.

In conclusion, “Accounting for Tastes” is highly recommended reading for economists, social scientists, students, academics, policy makers, public administrators, and general readers interested in gaining a comprehensive understanding of the economic dimensions of human behavior and preference formation. Becker’s scholarly expertise and accessible writing style make this book an invaluable resource for those seeking to delve into the profound and intricate relationship between individual choices and the broader societal, cultural, and economic factors at play.