Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty

Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty

Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty

Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty

Synopsis

Gerd Gigerenzer's influential work examines the rationality of individuals not from the perspective of logic or probability, but from the point of view of adaptation to the real world of human behavior and interaction with the environment. Seen from this perspective, human behavior is more rational than it might otherwise appear. This work is extremely influential and has spawned an entire research program.

This volume (which follows on a previous collection,Adaptive Thinking, also published by OUP) collects his most recent articles, looking at how people use "fast and frugal heuristics" to calculate probability and risk and make decisions. It includes a newly writen, substantial introduction, and the articles have been revised and updated where appropriate. This volume should appeal, like the earlier volumes, to a broad mixture of cognitive psychologists, philosophers, economists, and others who study decision making.

Excerpt

This book is a collection of essays on rationality, risk, and rules of thumb and is a sequel to an earlier volume, Adaptive Thinking: Rationality in the Real World (Oxford University Press, 2000). The essays, which have been edited and updated with new material, focus on heuristic and statistical thinking. These are complementary mental tools, not mutually exclusive strategies; our minds need both. This interplay between these two modes of thinking will become evident in the course of the book. Beforehand I would like to point out some principles of the research philosophy underlying this collection of papers.

1. Topic-oriented rather than discipline-oriented research. There are two ways to do social science: One is to be curious about a topic (such as the rationality of rules of thumb) and to assemble a group of researchers who approach it from different disciplines, methodologies, and theories. The second is to identify with a discipline or subdiscipline (such as social psychology) and to research topics only within its confines. I would say that most of psychology practices the discipline-oriented version of science; in many departments the cognitive wing rarely speaks with the developmental wing, the personality unit sees little merit in the evolutionary psychologists, and vice versa. Such territorial behavior is a huge obstacle to progress in the field. In this tradition, there is little curiosity or even awareness as to what other disciplines know about the same topic, and, at worst, one looks down at everyone else as either inferior or at best irrelevant. When Peter M. Todd and I founded the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) in 1995, we followed a deliberately topic-oriented research program. Not only psychologists from different subdisciplines talk, work, and publish together at the center, but also economists, computer scientists, mathematicians, engineers, behavioral biologists, political scientists, philosophers, and anyone else who is curious about our common topic: How do people make decisions when time and information is limited, and the future uncertain? The papers on which this volume is based were published in . . .

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