Why humans are cognitive misers and what it means for the Great Rationality Debate

Authored by: Keith E. Stanovich

Routledge Handbook of Bounded Rationality

Print publication date:  October  2020
Online publication date:  October  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138999381
eBook ISBN: 9781315658353
Adobe ISBN:


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Humans are cognitive misers because their basic tendency is to default to processing mechanisms of low computational expense. Although there are good evolutionary reasons why humans would be cognitive misers, the miserly tendency means that humans will display bounded rationality and not perfect rationality. Additionally, genetic goals can dissociate from the goal of personal utility maximization. These facts, along with some important concepts from dual-process cognitive theory, can help to resolve the Great Rationality Debate in cognitive science—the debate about how much rationality to ascribe to people.

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