Restricting individuals’ access to some goods may steer their desire toward their substitutes, a phenomenon known as the forbidden fruit effect. We propose and study a model of restriction-sensitive choice (RSC) that rationalizes such behaviours and that is compatible with the prominent psychological explanations: reactance theory and commodity theory. We show how the ingredients of our model can be identified from choice data, namely, from choice reversals caused by the removal of options. We give an axiomatic characterization of RSC. We also derive a measure of the freedom offered by opportunity sets for an agent whose final choices follow our procedure. Three applications are then analysed. We show that our model can accommodate the emergence of conspiracy theories and the backlash of integration policy targeted toward minorities. We finally study a principal’s delegation problem to an agent whose choice is an RSC. We find that the effect on the agent’s welfare is ambiguous.
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