Preference Falsification

Preference falsification refers to individuals hiding their true preferences due to societal pressures. This phenomenon can distort perceived norms, influence behavior, and potentially lead to sudden societal shifts. Its impact spans policy making, democratic processes, and economic behavior.

Definition of Preference Falsification

This term refers to the act of individuals misrepresenting their wants under perceived social pressures. It emphasizes how people hide their true preferences in response to real or perceived societal expectations and norms.

Social Context

Preference falsification happens primarily because of societal and cultural pressures. Individuals may feel compelled to hide their true desires or beliefs if they think these are unpopular, politically incorrect, or could result in ostracization or punishment.

Impact on Individual Behavior

Preference falsification can deeply impact individuals, causing internal conflict and cognitive dissonance. This arises from the incongruity between their true preferences and the preferences they publicly express.

Collective Consequences

When people within a society broadly falsify their preferences, it creates a distorted understanding of societal norms and values. It may seem like everyone agrees on a certain issue when, in reality, there is hidden dissent or disagreement.

Influence on Social Stability

Kuran proposed that societies with widespread preference falsification may appear stable but can be prone to sudden, drastic changes. This is because the perceived societal consensus is not genuine, and a small event can expose the widespread hidden dissent.

Revolutionary Thresholds

Kuran’s theory also introduces the concept of revolutionary thresholds, which represent individuals’ tolerance levels for dissent before they’re willing to publicly express their true preferences. The variation in these thresholds among individuals in a society can lead to rapid social change.

Influence on Policy Making and Democratic Processes

Preference falsification can also impact public policy and democratic processes. If individuals are not expressing their true preferences, voting results and public opinion surveys may not truly reflect the will of the people.

Role in Economics

In economic theory, preference falsification can lead to market inefficiencies, as markets respond to the expressed preferences rather than the true preferences of consumers.


While Kuran’s theory has been influential, it’s also received criticism. Critics suggest it’s difficult to measure the extent of preference falsification, and some argue it can be used to discredit genuine social consensus on controversial topics.