What behavior is rational? It’s rational to act ethically, some think. Others endorse instrumentalism — it is rational to pursue one’s goals. Still others say that acting rationally always involves promoting one’s self-interest. Many philosophers have given each of these answers. But these answers don’t really conflict; they aren’t vying to describe some shared concept or to solve some mutually acknowledged problem. In so far as this is debated, it is a pseudo-debate. The different uses of (...) ‘rational action’ differ merely in meaning. I shall defend the following claims: ‘rationalbehavior’ is used in ethical, prudential, and instrumental ways (section 1); these uses of ‘rationalbehavior’ are distinct (section 2); they do not represent competing theories of rationalbehavior (section 3); we should stop using ‘rationalbehavior’ ethically and prudentially, but we may continue its instrumental use (section 4). (shrink)
We present some interesting features of de Finetti's decision theory; then we extended the theory. The extended theory has a normative character and is of the expected utility kind, but it is also very adaptable. By comparing it with some leading theories, we find that our theory is compatible with consideration of the whole probability distribution — it can even accommodate Allais' paradox -, while it is not generally compatible with probability weighting. We are mainly interested in the normative point (...) of view. (shrink)
This article addresses major arguments in the controversy about the “rationality” of moral behavior: can moral behavior be explained by rational choice theory (RCT)? The two positions discussed are the incentives thesis (norms are incentives as any other costs and benefits) and the autonomy thesis claiming that moral behavior has nothing to do with utility. The article analyses arguments for the autonomy thesis by J. Elster, A. Etzioni, and J. G. March and J. P. Olsen. Finally, (...) the general claim is discussed whether norm following and norm emergence are utility maximizing. The conclusion is that the autonomy thesis is not tenable if one applies a wide subjectivist, social psychological version of RCT that includes the assumption of “bounded rationality.” The autonomy thesis is only compatible with a narrow version of RCT that excludes internal outcomes and that refers to norms that do not have external outcomes. It is argued that such a narrow version is not capable of explaining many forms of behavior social scientists are interested in. (shrink)
Rational analysis (Anderson 1990, 1991a) is an empiricalprogram of attempting to explain why the cognitive system isadaptive, with respect to its goals and the structure of itsenvironment. We argue that rational analysis has two importantimplications for philosophical debate concerning rationality. First,rational analysis provides a model for the relationship betweenformal principles of rationality (such as probability or decisiontheory) and everyday rationality, in the sense of successfulthought and action in daily life. Second, applying the program ofrational analysis to research (...) on human reasoning leads to a radicalreinterpretation of empirical results which are typically viewed asdemonstrating human irrationality. (shrink)
The paper first summarizes the author's decision-theoretical model of moral behavior, in order to compare the moral implications of the act-utilitarian and of the rule-utilitarian versions of utilitarian theory. This model is then applied to three voting examples. It is argued that the moral behavior of act-utilitarian individuals will have the nature of a noncooperative game, played in the extensive mode, and involving action-by-action maximization of social utility by each player. In contrast, the moral behavior of rule-utilitarian (...) individuals will have the nature of a cooperative game, played in the normal mode, and involving a firm commitment by each player to a specific moral strategy (viz. to the strategy selected by the rule-utilitarian choice criterion) — even if some individual actions prescribed by this strategy, when considered in isolation, should fail to maximize social utility.The most important advantage that rule utilitarianism as an ethical theory has over act utilitarianism lies in its ability to give full recognition to the moral and social importance of individual rights and personal obligations. It is easy to verify that action-by-action maximization of social utility, as required by act utilitarianism, would destroy these rights and obligations. In contrast, rule utilitarianism can fully recognize the moral validity of these rights and obligations precisely because of its commitment to an overall moral strategy, independent of action-by-action social-utility maximization.The paper ends with a discussion of the voter's paradox problem. The conventional theory of rationalbehavior cannot avoid the paradoxical conclusion that, in any large electorate, voting is always an irrational activity because one's own individual vote is extremely unlikely to make any difference to the outcome of any election. But it can be shown that, by using the principles of rule-utilitarian theory, this paradox can easily be resolved and that, in actual fact, voting, even in large electorates, may be perfectly rational action. More generally, the example of rule utilitarianism shows what an important role the concept of a rational commitment can play in the analysis of rationalbehavior. (shrink)
A fundamental philosophical question that arises in connection with evolutionary theory is whether the fittest patterns of behavior are always the most rational. Are fitness and rationality fully compatible? When behavioral rationality is characterized formally as in classical decision theory, the question becomes mathematically meaningful and can be explored systematically by investigating whether the optimally fit behavior predicted by evolutionary process models is decision-theoretically coherent. Upon investigation, it appears that in nontrivial evolutionary models the expected behavior (...) is not always in accord with the norms of the standard theory of decision as ordinarily applied. Many classically irrational acts, e.g. betting on the occurrence of one event in the knowledge that the probabilities favor another, can under certain circumstances constitute adaptive behavior.One interesting interpretation of this clash is that the criterion of rationality offered by classical decision theory is simply incorrect (or at least incomplete) as it stands, and that evolutionary theory should be called upon to provide a more generally applicable theory of rationality. Such a program, should it prove feasible, would amount to the logical reduction of the theory of rational choice to evolutionary theory. (shrink)
In reply to McClennen, the paper argues that his criticism is based on a mistaken assumption about the meaning of rationality postulates, to be called the ‘Implication Principle’. Once we realize that the Implication Principle has no validity, McClennen's criticisms of what he calls the ‘Reductio Argument’ and what he calls the ‘Incentive Argument’ fall to the ground. The rest of the paper criticizes the rationality concept McClennen proposes in lieu of that used by orthodox game theory. It is argued (...) that McClennen's concept is inconsistent with the behavior of real-life intelligent egoists; it is incompatible with the way ‘payoffs’ are defined in game theory; and it would be highly dangerous as a practical guide to human behavior. (shrink)
The generation of value bubbles is an inherently psychological and social process, where information sharing and individual decisions can affect representations of value. Bubbles occur in many domains, from the stock market, to the runway, to the laboratories of science. Here we seek to understand how psychological and social processes lead representations (i.e., expectations) of value to become divorced from the inherent value, using asset bubbles as an example. We hypothesize that simple asset group switching rules can give rise to (...) aggregate behavior that resembles the irrational exuberance that can drive asset bubbles. Using an agent-based model we explore whether a simple switching rule can generate irrational exuberance, and systematically explore how communication between decision makers influences the speed and intensity of overvaluation. We show that rational and simple individual level rules combined with honest information sharing are sufficient to generate the collective overvaluation characteristic of irrational exuberance. Further, our results demonstrate that low fidelity in the exchange of value information leads to rapidly increasing expectations about value, even when no one is engaged in exaggerating their expectations for the assets they own. (shrink)
Stanovich & West's target article undervalues the power of implicit learning (particularly reinforcement learning). Implicit learning may allow the learning of more rational responses–and sometimes even generalisation of knowledge–in contexts where explicit, abstract knowledge proves only of limited value, such as for economic decision-making. Four other comments are made.
In discussing rational choice theory (RCT) as an explanation of demand behavior, Becker (1962, Journal of Political Economy, 70, 1?13) proposed a model of random choice in which consumers pick a bundle on their budget line according to a uniform distribution. This model has then been used in various ways to assess the validity of RCT and to support as-if arguments in defense of it. This paper makes both historical and methodological contributions. Historically, it investigates how the interpretation (...) of Becker random behavior evolved between the original 1962 article and the modern experimental literature on individual demand, and surveys six experiments in which it has been used as an alternative hypothesis to RCT. Methodologically, this paper conducts an assessment of the as-if defense of RCT from the standpoint of Becker's model. It argues that this defense is ?weak? in a number of senses, and that it has negatively influenced the design of experiments about RCT. (shrink)
This paper discusses several concepts that can be used to provide a foundation for a unified, theory of rational, economic behavior. First, decision-making is defined to be a process that takes place with reference to both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ time, that distinguishes between plans and actions, between information and states and that explicitly incorporates the collection and processing of information. This conception of decision making is then related to several important aspects of ‘behavioral economics’, the dependence of values (...) on experience, the use of behavioral rules, the occurrence of multiple goals and environmental feedback.Our conclusions are (1) the non-transitivity of observed or ‘revealed’ preferences is a characteristic of learning and hence is to be expected of rational decision-makers; (2) the learning of values through experience suggests the sensibleness of short time horizons and the making of choices according to ‘flexible’ utility; (3) certain rules of thumb used to allow for risk are closely related to principles of Safety-First and can also be based directly on the hypothesis that the feeling of risk (the probability of disaster) is identified with extreme departures from recently executed decisions. (4) The maximization of a hierarchy of goals, or of a lexicographical utility function, is closely related to the search for feasibility and the practice of ‘satisficing’. (5) When the dim perception of environmental feedback and the effect of learning on values are acknowledged the intertemporal optimality of planned decision ‘trajectories’ is seen to be a characteristic of ‘subjective’ not ‘objective’ time. This explains why decision making is so often best characterized by rolling plans. In short, we find that economic man - like any other - is an existential being whose plans are based on hopes and fears and whose every act involves a leap of faith. (shrink)
While logical theories of information attitudes, such as knowledge, certainty and belief, have flourished in the past two decades, formalization of other facets of rationalbehavior have lagged behind significantly. One intriguing line of research concerns the concept of intention. I will discuss one approach to tackling the notion within a logical framework, based on a database perspective.
It has always seemed to me that the universe is a bit more diabolical than one would expect. There are just too many strange and frustrating incidents that can not be attributed to pure chance. Can there be some validity to the thousands of "Murphy's Laws" that we have heard about or been subjected to? Maybe. Murphy's Laws may not be the worst of it.
As part of the rationality debate, we examine the impact of deliberative and intuitive thinking styles on diversity preference behavior. A sample of 230 students completed the Rational Experiential Inventory and the Diversity Preference Questionnaire, an original measure of diversification behavior in different real-life situations. In cases where no normative solution was available, we found a clear preference for diversity-seeking in the gain domain and diversity-aversion in the loss domain, regardless of cognitive thinking style. However, in cases (...) where one alternative normatively dominated the other, participants high in deliberative thinking style were more calibrated to normative behavior, regardless of whether their intuitive tendency preference and the normative solution were contradictory or pointed in the same direction. Our findings support a model in which deliberative but not intuitive thinking style is the crucial predictor of rationalbehavior, since it enables people to better adjust their intuitive preference anchor when normative considerations require doing so. (shrink)
We construct a model of rational choice under risk with biased risk judgement. On its basis, we argue that sometimes, a regulator aiming at maximising social welfare should affect the environment in such a way that it becomes ‘less safe’ in common perception. More specifically, we introduce a bias into each agent’s choice of optimal risk levels: consequently, in certain environments, agents choose a behaviour that realises higher risks than intended. Individuals incur a welfare loss through this bias. We (...) show that by deteriorating the environment, the regulator can motivate individuals to choose behaviour that is less biased, and hence realises risk levels closer to what individuals intended. We formally investigate the conditions under which such a Beneficial Safety Decrease—i.e. a deteriorating intervention that has a positive welfare effect—exists. Finally, we discuss three applications of our model. (shrink)
In this article, we present a contextually embedded choice theory. Using concepts and tools of poset mathematics, we show how to include in rational choice theory cultural and social effects. Specifically, we define some choice superstructures, seen as choice set transformations imposed by cultural and social norms. As we shall argue, these transformations can be of help to explain choice behavior within different contexts. Moreover, we show that, once choice superstructures are taken into account, some well-known results about (...) maximizing and optimizing behavior are easily confirmed and some insights on intransitive choices may be phased out. (shrink)
A working assumption that processes of natural and cultural evolution have tailored the mind to fit the demands and structure of its environment begs the question: how are we to characterize the structure of cognitive environments? Decision problems faced by real organisms are not like simple multiple-choice examination papers. For example, some individual problems may occur much more frequently than others, whilst some may carry much more weight than others. Such considerations are not taken into account when (i) the performance (...) of candidate cognitive mechanisms is assessed by employing a simple accuracy metric that is insensitive to the structure of the decision-maker's environment, and (ii) reason is defined as the adherence to internalist prescriptions of classical rationality. Here we explore the impact of frequency and significance structure on the performance of a range of candidate decision-making mechanisms. We show that the character of this impact is complex, since structured environments demand that decision-makers trade off general performance against performance on important subsets of test items. As a result, environment structure obviates internalist criteria of rationality. Failing to appreciate the role of environment structure in shaping cognition can lead to mischaracterising adaptive behavior as irrational. (shrink)
What is the nature of moral behavior? According to the study of bounded rationality, it results not from character traits or rational deliberation alone, but from the interplay between mind and environment. In this view, moral behavior is based on pragmatic social heuristics rather than moral rules or maximization principles. These social heuristics are not good or bad per se, but solely in relation to the environments in which they are used. This has methodological implications for the (...) study of morality: Behavior needs to be studied in social groups as well as in isolation, in natural environments as well as in labs. It also has implications for moral policy: Only by accepting the fact that behavior is a function of both mind and environmental structures can realistic prescriptive means of achieving moral goals be developed. (shrink)
For Herbert Gintis, the “rational actor,” or “beliefs, preferences, and constraints (BPC),” model is central to his unifying framework for the behavioral sciences. It is not argued here that this model is refuted by evidence. Instead, this model relies ubiquitously on auxiliary assumptions, and is evacuated of much meaning when applied to both human and nonhuman organisms. An alternative perspective of “program-based behavior” is more consistent with evolutionary principles. (Published Online April 27 2007).
This paper rejects the idea that rationality can be defined as optimization, on theoretic, empirical and methodological grounds. It proposes instead a more general theory of rational action in the context of individual growth, change and development over time, in an uncertain world of social interaction, in which choices are part of a learning process. Such a theory of economic behavior is empirically testable, which is not true of either optimization or satisficing, involves conflict and tension rather than (...) harmony, and leads to possible government action rather than laissez-faire. It also broadens economic theory to include relationships among individual behavior, institutions and values. (shrink)
On a causal theory of rationalbehavior, behavior is just a causal consequence of the reasons an actor has. One of the difficulties with this theory has been the possibility of the "wayward causal chains," according to which reasons can cause the expected output, but in such an unusual way that the output is clearly not intentional. The inability to find a general way of excluding these wayward chains without implicitly appealing to elements incompatible with a pure (...) causal account (like brute acts of will) has been a problem for the causal theory. This essay attempts to find a general solution to the problem. The solution rests on the premise that behavior-producing systems are goal-directed, and that on a purely causal analysis of goal-directedness it can be shown that the wayward chains' resulting in the goal is purely fortuitous because these chains do not subserve the function of the system. (shrink)
A much discussed topic in the theory of choice is how a preference order among options can be derived from the assumption that the notion of ‘choice’ is primitive. Assuming a choice function that selects elements from each finite set of options, Arrow (Economica 26:121–127, 1959) already showed how we can generate a weak ordering by putting constraints on the behavior of such a function such that it reflects utility maximization. Arrow proposed that rational agents can be modeled (...) by such choice functions. Arrow’s standard model of rationality has been criticized in economics and gave rise to approaches of bounded rationality. Two standard assumptions of rationality will be given up in this paper. First, the idea that agents are utility optimizers (Simon). Second, the idea that the relation of ‘indifference’ gives rise to an equivalence relation. To account for the latter, Luce (Econometrica 24:178–191, 1956) introduced semi-orders. Extending some ideas of Van Benthem (Pac Philos Q 63:193–203, 1982), we will show how to derive semi-orders (and so-called interval orders) based on the idea that agents are utility satisficers rather than utility optimizers. (shrink)
In the decision-making and rationality research field, rational decision theory (RDT) has always been the main framework, thanks to the elegance and complexity of its mathematical tools. Unfortunately, the formal refinement of the theory is not accompanied by a satisfying predictive accuracy, thus there is a big gap between what is predicted by the theory and the behaviour of real subjects. Here we propose a new foundation of the RDT, which has to be based on a cognitive architecture for (...) reason-based agents, acting on the basis of their beliefs in order to achieve their goals. The decision process is a cognitive evaluation of conflicting goals, based on different beliefs and values, but also on emotions and desires. We refer to a cognitive analysis of emotions and we integrate them in this more general RDT. (shrink)
We report the results of a dual-task study in which participants performed a tracking and typing task under various experimental conditions. An objective payoff function was used to provide explicit feedback on how participants should trade off performance between the tasks. Results show that participants’ dual-task interleaving strategy was sensitive to changes in the difficulty of the tracking task and resulted in differences in overall task performance. To test the hypothesis that people select strategies that maximize payoff, a Cognitively Bounded (...)Rational Analysis model was developed. This analysis evaluated a variety of dual-task interleaving strategies to identify the optimal strategy for maximizing payoff in each condition. The model predicts that the region of optimum performance is different between experimental conditions. The correspondence between human data and the prediction of the optimal strategy is found to be remarkably high across a number of performance measures. This suggests that participants were honing their behavior to maximize payoff. Limitations are discussed. (shrink)
This paper shows how alternative, culturally-determined motivational forces can be substituted for self-interest or rationality in the theory of choice. Several possibilities are considered, including the replacement of preference optimization by such propellants as the selection of the `second best' or the `central' option. It is argued that although all choice behavior, even that consistent with the alternatives considered, can ultimately be understood as satisfying the criterion of rationality, richer and more meaningful explanation is obtained by focusing on culturally (...) significant alternative motivations when the latter turn out, in particular environments, to be more important than self-interest. (shrink)
Pt. I. Philosophy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) -- Ch. 1. The "philosophical origins" of CBT -- Ch. 2. The beginning of modern cognitive therapy -- Ch. 3. A brief history of philosophical therapy -- Ch. 4. Stoic philosophy and psychology -- Ch. 5. Rational emotion in stoicism and CBT -- Ch. 6 Stoicism and Ellis's rational therapy (REBT) -- Pt. II. The stoic armamentarium -- Ch. 7. Contemplation of the ideal stage -- Ch. 8. Stoic mindfulness of the (...) "here and now" -- Ch. 9. Self-analysis and disputation -- Ch. 10. Autosuggestion, premeditation, and retrospection -- Ch. 11. Preditatio malorum and mental rehearsal -- Ch. 12. Stoic fatalism, determination, and acceptance -- Ch. 13. The view from above and stoic metaphysics. (shrink)
An influential tradition in moral philosophy attempts to explain an immoral action by reference to the defect in reasoning on the part of an immoral agent. On this view, the requirements of morality are not only sanctioned by the more general requirements of rationality, but the violations of the moral requirements would be indicative of a rational failure. In this article I argue that ascription of irrationality to amoral individuals (e.g., psychopaths) is either empirically false, or else, conceptually problematic. (...) An interpretation of irrationality in its instrumental sense fails to do justice to the results of the research concerning the intelligence of some amoralists, whereas the suggestion that the alleged cognitive deficiency lies at the level of final ends and ultimate values faces serious theoretical difficulties. All attempts to construe the notion of an external reason for action without reference to the agent's actual goals and values bespeak an objectivist's bias, rest on controversial assumptions, and tend to alienate the agent from the proposed set of reasons. The argument is partly based on the analysis of reasoning of Ted Bundy, a notorious serial murderer, who presents a rather sophisticated justification for his criminal behavior. (shrink)
This article develops a constitutive account of self-knowledgethat is able to avoid certain shortcomings of the standard response to the perceived prima facieincompatibility between privileged self-knowledge and externalism. It argues that ifone conceives of linguistic action as voluntary behavior in a minimal sense, one cannot conceive ofbelief content to be externalistically constituted without simultaneously assuming that the agent hasknowledge of his beliefs. Accepting such a constitutive account of self-knowledge does not, however,preclude the conceptual possibility of being mistaken about ones (...) mental states. Rather, self-knowledgehas to be seen as only a general constraint or as the default assumption of interpreting somebodyas a rational and intentional agent. This is compatible with the diagnosis of a localized lack of self-transparency. (shrink)
Jon Elster denies that collectives can behave rationally. Rationalbehavior requires action in conformity with preferences and beliefs. According to Elster, however, social choice theory demonstrates that collectives cannot have preferences, even in principle, and this precludes them from behaving either rationally or irrationally. (Irrationality, after all, is a property that can only be possessed by something that could in theory be rational.) Elster, however, does not fully accept this refutation of the possibility of collective rationality. For (...) in exploring the question of random selection, he argues that collectives, as well as individuals, can employ random selection as a tool to facilitate more rationalbehavior. This contradiction can be resolved if collective preferences are not as inconceivable as Elster suggests, and Elster himself gives reason for believing they may not be. He does this by distinguishing between a thin and a broad theory of rationality. His refutation of the possibility of collective preferences depends on a thin theory of preferences (and beliefs), a theory that he admits is inadequate for purposes of normative assessment. A broad theory of preferences and beliefs, when properly developed, could well accommodate the notion of collective preferences and beliefs, and thus of collective rationality. Key Words: Elster rationality social choice theory. (shrink)
I present a theory of alienation that accounts for the cognitive processes involved with moral thinking and political behavior in modern societies. On my account, alienation can be understood as a particular kind of atrophy of moral concepts and moral thinking that affect the ways individuals cognize and legitimate the social world and their place within it. Central to my argument is the thesis that modern forms of social integration—shaped by highly institutionalized, rationalized and hierarchical forms of social life—serve (...) to constrain the moral- cognitive powers of subjects leading to a condition of alienation as moral atrophy. This state results from the withering of the subject's internal powers of moral reflection and an overriding predisposition to rely on external value schemas to make sense of moral and political problems. I then present an analysis of alienated moral consciousness and its implications for modern social theory. (shrink)
Rational choice models are characterized by the image of the self-interested Homo economicus. The role of moral concerns, which may involve a concern for others' welfare in people's judgments and choices, questions the descriptive validity of such models. Increasing evidence of a role for perceived moral obligation within the expectancy-value-based theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior indicates the importance of moral-normative influences in social behavior. In 2 studies, the influence of moral judgments on (...) attitudes toward food produced with the use of genetic engineering techniques and toward meat consumption is addressed. The reasons participants provide for their moral judgments indicate some foci of their moral concerns. The results of both studies corroborate earlier findings that perceived moral obligation (moral norm) has independent effects on behavioral intentions; they also provide evidence that such judgments may affect attitudes themselves. The results are discussed in relation to the need for attitude-behavior models to reflect the role of moral evaluations in judgment and choice. (shrink)
According to some theories of interpretation, it is difficult to explain and predict irrational behavior in intentional terms because irrational behavior does not support the ascription of intentional states with determinate content. In this paper I challenge this claim by offering a general diagnosis of those cases in which behavior, rational or not, resists interpretation. I argue that indeterminacy of ascription and paralysis of interpretation ensue when the interpreter lacks relevant information about the system to be (...) interpreted and about the environment in which the system is embedded. Moreover, the heuristics of interpretation that guide the ascription of beliefs can be limited in scope. In the end I suggest that by giving up the idea of a necessary rationality constraint on the ascription of intentional states we can develop a new framework for a more psychologically realistic account of interpretation. (shrink)