Was the cardinalist understanding of utility flawed? What's the proof?

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skipperb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The cardinalist view of consumer behavior contends that the degree of satisfaction, or utility, a person derives from a given product or service can be measured quantitatively by an imaginary term called utils. A specific number can be used to describe the degree to which a consumer finds value in a given commodity. A consumer can compare two different commodities and use the util to rate each product or service, e.g. the consumer liked product A twice as much as Product B. However, both commodities can be independent of each other, and money or the value one places on a product or service can determine its utility to the consumer. Critics of the cardinalist approach to consumer behavior point out that a consumer's satisfaction with a good or service is not based on rational thinking since expectations are often governed by customs and habits. Many goods are not divisible or may be purchased in large bulk. Critics of the cardinalist view also note that a person's satisfaction with a good or service may be dependent on the availability of complementary goods or services, e.g. if someone buys a new gaming system, he/she may rate degree of satisfaction based on the selection of games available for the new system. While the cardinalist approach views the utility of money as a constant despite the fact that consumers have less of it when spent on goods or services, other economists contend that as the amount of money decreases, it becomes more valuable to the consumer.