IMAGE THEORY, THE UNIFYING PERSPECTIVE1
Lee Roy Beach University of Arizona
Terence R. Mitchell University of Washington
The purpose of this chapter is to describe the conceptual foundation, image theory, on which subsequent chapters are built. We begin with an informal description of image theory, followed by a more formal presentation. Finally, we describe the main themes and findings of research on image theory.
It seems to us that in the 40 years of behavioral decision research there have been four major changes in how unaided decision making is viewed ( Beach, 1993). The early view, which still prevails in some quarters, was that all decisions were properly regarded as (usually risky) choices that, after extensive evaluation of the available options, resulted from maximization of expected utility or some normative variation thereof.
The first change came from recognition that evaluation seldom is extensive and virtually never is exhaustive (e.g., Simon, 1955; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). This means that maximization in any strict sense does not occur and that two courses are open to decision theorists. One is to insist that decision makers are flawed, that they should be trying to maximize____________________