Information Use for Decision Making

Authored by: Edward T. Cokely , Lael J. Schooler , Gerd Gigerenzer

Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Fourth Edition

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781466552593
eBook ISBN: 9781315116143
Adobe ISBN:


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How should we use information to make good decisions? Historically, the view has been that normatively superior decision making is the product of complex optimization processes that rationally consider and integrate all available information. Such optimization processes are well beyond the capabilities of mere mortals and in many cases are computationally intractable by any means. Fortunately, optimization processes are not always necessary: Less can be more. Simple decision processes—i.e., heuristics—used in the right environments enable fast, frugal, and adaptive decision making that can be as good as, or better than, even the most complex optimization processes. In what follows, we introduce research on ecological rationality and the science of adaptive heuristics. Our review includes 1) a brief history of the study of decision making; 2) a discussion of simple yet computationally precise heuristics, and how, when, and why they lead to superior performance; and 3) examples of how simple heuristics are starting to be used in the information sciences, such as in database literature prioritization or in the development of more user-friendly technologies. Although it may seem conventionally paradoxical, intelligent and adaptive information use often requires that information be ignored.

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