Do taboo trade-offs explain the difficulty in valuing health and social interventions?
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Persistent anomalies in the results of willingness to pay studies, despite improvements in measurement technique, challenge the assumption in economics that all sources of value are commensurable. Two sources of incommensurability have been identified: interdimensional incommensurability, which refers to the cognitive difficulty that people encounter when trying to assign a monetary value to health; and constitutive incommensurability, which arises when some forms of trade-off are regarded as 'taboo'. In this paper we explore whether the notion of taboo trade-offs might explain some of the difficulties experienced in health-related willingness to pay studies.