Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart

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Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart invites readers to embark on a new journey into a land of rationality that differs from the familiar territory of cognitive science and economics. Traditional views of rationality tend to see decision makers as possessing superhuman powers of reason, limitless knowledge, and all of eternity in which to ponder choices. To understand decisions in the real world, we need a different, more psychologically plausible notion of rationality, and this book provides it. It is about fast...

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Overview

Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart invites readers to embark on a new journey into a land of rationality that differs from the familiar territory of cognitive science and economics. Traditional views of rationality tend to see decision makers as possessing superhuman powers of reason, limitless knowledge, and all of eternity in which to ponder choices. To understand decisions in the real world, we need a different, more psychologically plausible notion of rationality, and this book provides it. It is about fast and frugal heuristics—simple rules for making decisions when time is pressing and deep thought an unaffordable luxury. These heuristics can enable both living organisms and artificial systems to make smart choices, classifications, and predictions by employing bounded rationality.
But when and how can such fast and frugal heuristics work? Can judgments based simply on one good reason be as accurate as those based on many reasons? Could less knowledge even lead to systematically better predictions than more knowledge? Simple Heuristics explores these questions, developing computational models of heuristics and testing them through experiments and analyses. It shows how fast and frugal heuristics can produce adaptive decisions in situations as varied as choosing a mate, dividing resources among offspring, predicting high school drop out rates, and playing the stock market.
As an interdisciplinary work that is both useful and engaging, this book will appeal to a wide audience. It is ideal for researchers in cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and cognitive science, as well as in economics and artificial intelligence. It will also inspire anyone interested in simply making good decisions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"How do people cope in the real, complex world of confusing and overwhelming information and rapidly approaching deadlines? This important book starts a new quest for answers. Here, Gigerenzer, Todd, and their lively research group show that simple heuristics are powerful tools that do surprisingly well. The field of decision making will never be the same again."—Donald A. Norman, author of Things Make Us Smart and The Invisible Computer

"Gigerenzer & Todds volume represents a major advance in our understanding of human reasoning, with many genuinely new ideas on how people think and an impressive body of data to back them up. Simple Heuristics is indispensable for cognitive psychologists, economists, and anyone else interested in reason and rationality."—Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works and Words and Rules

"In the past few years, the theory of rational (sensible) human behavior has broken loose from the illusory and empirically unsupported notion that deciding rationally means maximizing expected utility. Research has learned to take seriously and study empirically how real human beings ... actually address the vast complexities of the world they inhabit. Simple Heuristics ... offers a fascinating introduction to this revolution in cognitive science, striking a great blow for sanity in the approach to human rationality."—Herbert A. Simon, Carnegie Mellon University, and Nobel Laureate in Economics

"This book is a major contribution to the theory of bounded rationality. It illustrates that the surprising efficiency of fast and simple procedures is due to their fit with the structure of the environment in which they are used. The emphasis on this ecological rationality is an advance in a promising and already fruitful new direction of research."—Reinhard Selten, Professor of Economics at the University of Bonn, and Nobel Laureate in Economics

"The underlying argument of the book is that the environments in which we evolved and in which we now live have certain regularities, and that decision making mechanisms—both evolved mechanisms, and the mechanisms that we actually use today—take advantage of these environmental regularities. Most of the book illustrates this argument by showing that in many circumstances shortcut decision making mechanisms (the 'simple heuristics' of the title) are remarkably accurate...This book by Gigerenzer and his associates marks a significant advance in the analysis." — Paul H. Rubin, Journal of Bioeconomics, Vol 2, 2000

"Gigerenzer et al. take on a heroic effort of creating a grand theory of mind ..."—Contemporary Psychology, APA Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195121568
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/30/1999
  • Series: Evolution and Cognition Series
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer is the Director of the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development. Dr. Peter M. Todd is Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development.

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Table of Contents

The ABC Research Group

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2005

    Worthwhile Insight into Mental Shortcuts

    People aren't computers. Human beings live in a real world of scarcity and constraint. Even though time and information may be scarce, human beings must make high-stakes decisions. Probability and logic offer models for the thought process of choosing between alternatives, but decision makers often do not have enough hours, data and skill to use these sophisticated approaches. Fortunately, some rough and ready cognitive shortcuts perform as well as or better than the most elaborately sophisticated models ¿ at least in the real world context of limited information and time. Working with the ABC Research Group, authors Gerd Gigerenzer and Peter M. Todd explore some of those shortcuts, called 'heuristics.' They discuss in length and depth a series of experiments that demonstrate the value of heuristics. This is not light reading. It requires a level of comfort with academic style, mathematics and symbolic logic. Readers unfamiliar with cognition literature may find it a struggle ¿ but we believes that those who persevere will find enough new insight to make the effort worthwhile.

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