Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
HeuristicsThe Foundations of Adaptive Behavior$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Gerd Gigerenzer, Ralph Hertwig, and Thorsten Pachur

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199744282

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199744282.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 March 2021

Simple Heuristics and Rules of Thumb: Where Psychologists and Behavioural Biologists Might Meet

Simple Heuristics and Rules of Thumb: Where Psychologists and Behavioural Biologists Might Meet

(p.110) Chapter 5 Simple Heuristics and Rules of Thumb: Where Psychologists and Behavioural Biologists Might Meet

John M.C. Hutchinson

Gerd Gigerenzer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The Centre for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) has hypothesized that much human decision making can be described by simple algorithmic process models (heuristics). This chapter explains this approach and relates it to research in biology on rules of thumb, which we also review. As an example of a simple heuristic, consider the lexicographic strategy of take-the-best for choosing between two alternatives: Cues are searched in turn until one discriminates, then search stops and all other cues are ignored. Heuristics consist of building blocks, and building blocks exploit evolved or learned abilities such as recognition memory; it is the complexity of these abilities that allows the heuristics to be simple. Simple heuristics have an advantage in making decisions fast and with little information, and in avoiding overfitting. Furthermore, humans are observed to use simple heuristics. Simulations show that the statistical structures of different environments affect which heuristics perform better, a relationship referred to as ecological rationality. We contrast ecological rationality with the stronger claim of adaptation. Rules of thumb from biology provide clearer examples of adaptation because animals can be studied in the environments in which they evolved. The range of examples is also much more diverse. To investigate them, biologists have sometimes used similar simulation techniques to ABC, but many examples depend on empirically driven approaches. ABC's theoretical framework can be useful in connecting some of these examples, particularly the scattered literature on how information from different cues is integrated. Optimality modeling is usually used to explain less detailed aspects of behavior but might more often be redirected to investigate rules of thumb.

Keywords:   animal cognition, cognitive ecology, cue integration, ecological rationality, heuristics, fast-and-frugal heuristic, multiple cues, optimality modelling, rule of thumb, take-the-best

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .