Bounded rationality

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Bounded rationality is the idea that rationality is limited, when individuals make decisions, by the tractability of the decision problem, the cognitive limitations of the mind, and the time available to make the decision. Decision-makers, in this view, act as satisficers, seeking a satisfactory solution rather than an optimal one.

Contents

Herbert A. Simon proposed bounded rationality as an alternative basis for the mathematical modeling of decision-making, as used in economics, political science and related disciplines. It complements "rationality as optimization", which views decision-making as a fully rational process of finding an optimal choice given the information available. [1] Simon used the analogy of a pair of scissors, where one blade represents "cognitive limitations" of actual humans and the other the "structures of the environment", illustrating how minds compensate for limited resources by exploiting known structural regularity in the environment. [1] Many economics models assume that people are on average rational, and can in large enough quantities be approximated to act according to their preferences. With bounded rationality, Simon's goal was "to replace the global rationality of economic man with a kind of rational behavior that is compatible with the access to information and the computational capacities that are actually possessed by organisms, including man, in the kinds of environments in which such organisms exist." [2] In short, the concept of bounded rationality revises notions of "perfect" rationality to account for the fact that perfectly rational decisions are often not feasible in practice because of the intractability of natural decision problems and the finite computational resources available for making them.

The concept of bounded rationality continues to influence (and be debated in) different disciplines, including economics, psychology, law, political science and cognitive science. [3] Some models of human behavior in the social sciences assume that humans can be reasonably approximated or described as "rational" entities, as in rational choice theory or Downs Political Agency Models. [4]

Origins

The term was coined by Herbert A. Simon. In Models of Man, Simon points out that most people are only partly rational, and are irrational in the remaining part of their actions. In another work, he states "boundedly rational agents experience limits in formulating and solving complex problems and in processing (receiving, storing, retrieving, transmitting) information". [5] Simon describes a number of dimensions along which "classical" models of rationality can be made somewhat more realistic, while sticking within the vein of fairly rigorous formalization. These include:

Simon suggests that economic agents use heuristics to make decisions rather than a strict rigid rule of optimization. They do this because of the complexity of the situation.

Model extensions

As decision-makers have to make decisions about how and when to decide, Ariel Rubinstein proposed to model bounded rationality by explicitly specifying decision-making procedures. [6] This puts the study of decision procedures on the research agenda.

Gerd Gigerenzer opines that decision theorists have not really adhered to Simon's original ideas. Rather, they have considered how decisions may be crippled by limitations to rationality, or have modeled how people might cope with their inability to optimize. Gigerenzer proposes and shows that simple heuristics often lead to better decisions than theoretically optimal procedures. [4]

Huw Dixon later argues that it may not be necessary to analyze in detail the process of reasoning underlying bounded rationality. [7] If we believe that agents will choose an action that gets them "close" to the optimum, then we can use the notion of epsilon-optimization, which means we choose our actions so that the payoff is within epsilon of the optimum. If we define the optimum (best possible) payoff as , then the set of epsilon-optimizing options S(ε) can be defined as all those options s such that:

.

The notion of strict rationality is then a special case (ε=0). The advantage of this approach is that it avoids having to specify in detail the process of reasoning, but rather simply assumes that whatever the process is, it is good enough to get near to the optimum.

From a computational point of view, decision procedures can be encoded in algorithms and heuristics. Edward Tsang argues that the effective rationality of an agent is determined by its computational intelligence. Everything else being equal, an agent that has better algorithms and heuristics could make "more rational" (more optimal) decisions than one that has poorer heuristics and algorithms. [8] Tshilidzi Marwala and Evan Hurwitz in their study on bounded rationality observed that advances in technology (e.g. computer processing power because of Moore's law, artificial intelligence and big data analytics) expand the bounds that define the feasible rationality space. Because of this expansion of the bounds of rationality, machine automated decision making makes markets more efficient. [9]

Relationship to behavioral economics

Bounded rationality implies the idea that humans take reasoning shortcuts that may lead to suboptimal decision-making. Behavioral economists engage in mapping the decision shortcuts that agents use in order to help increase the effectiveness of human decision-making. One treatment of this idea comes from Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's Nudge . [10] [11] Sunstein and Thaler recommend that choice architectures are modified in light of human agents' bounded rationality. A widely cited proposal from Sunstein and Thaler urges that healthier food be placed at sight level in order to increase the likelihood that a person will opt for that choice instead of a less healthy option. Some critics of Nudge have lodged attacks that modifying choice architectures will lead to people becoming worse decision-makers. [12] [13]

Bounded rationality was shown to be essential to predict human sociability properties in a particular model by Vernon L. Smith and Michael J. Campbell. [14] There, an agent-based model correctly predicts that agents are averse to resentment and punishment, and that there is an asymmetry between gratitude/reward and resentment/punishment. The purely rational Nash equilibrium is shown to have no predictive power for that model, and the boundedly rational Gibbs equilibrium must be used to predict phenomena outlined in Humanomics. [15]

Influence on social network structure

Recent research has shown that bounded rationality of individuals may influence the topology of the social networks that evolve among them. In particular, Kasthurirathna and Piraveenan [16] have shown that in socio-ecological systems, the drive towards improved rationality on average might be an evolutionary reason for the emergence of scale-free properties. They did this by simulating a number of strategic games on an initially random network with distributed bounded rationality, then re-wiring the network so that the network on average converged towards Nash equilibria, despite the bounded rationality of nodes. They observed that this re-wiring process results in scale-free networks. Since scale-free networks are ubiquitous in social systems, the link between bounded rationality distributions and social structure is an important one in explaining social phenomena.

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Gigerenzer, Gerd; Selten, Reinhard (2002). Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox. MIT Press. ISBN   978-0-262-57164-7.
  2. Simon, Herbert A. (1955-02-01). "A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice". The Quarterly Journal of Economics. 69 (1): 99–118. doi:10.2307/1884852. ISSN   0033-5533. JSTOR   1884852.
  3. Chater, Nick; Felin, Teppo; Funder, David C.; Gigerenzer, Gerd; Koenderink, Jan J.; Krueger, Joachim I.; Noble, Denis; Nordli, Samuel A.; Oaksford, Mike; Schwartz, Barry; Stanovich, Keith E. (2018-04-01). "Mind, rationality, and cognition: An interdisciplinary debate". Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 25 (2): 793–826. doi:10.3758/s13423-017-1333-5. ISSN   1531-5320. PMC   5902517 . PMID   28744767.
  4. 1 2 Mancur Olson, Jr. ([1965] 1971). The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, 2nd ed. Harvard University Press, Description, Table of Contents, and preview.
  5. Oliver E. Williamson, p. 553, citing Simon.
  6. Rubinstein, Ariel (1997). Modeling bounded rationality. MIT Press. ISBN   9780262681001.
  7. Moss; Rae, eds. (1992). "Some Thoughts on Artificial Intelligence and Economic Theory". Artificial Intelligence and Economic Analysis. Edward Elgar. pp.  131–154. ISBN   978-1852786854.
  8. Tsang, E.P.K. (2008). "Computational intelligence determines effective rationality". International Journal of Automation and Computing. 5 (1): 63–6. doi:10.1007/s11633-008-0063-6. S2CID   9769519.
  9. Marwala, Tshilidzi; Hurwitz, Evan (2017). Artificial Intelligence and Economic Theory: Skynet in the Market. London: Springer. ISBN   978-3-319-66104-9.
  10. Thaler, Richard H., Sunstein, Cass R. (April 8, 2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0-14-311526-7. OCLC   791403664.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  11. Thaler, Richard H., Sunstein, Cass R. and Balz, John P. (April 2, 2010). "Choice Architecture". doi:10.2139/ssrn.1583509. S2CID   219382170. SSRN   1583509 .Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. Wright, Joshua; Ginsberg, Douglas (February 16, 2012). "Free to Err?: Behavioral Law and Economics and its Implications for Liberty". Library of Law & Liberty.
  13. Sunstein, Cass (2009-05-13). Going to extreems: How Like Minds Unite and Divide. ISBN   9780199793143.
  14. Michael J. Campbell; Vernon L. Smith (2020). "An elementary humanomics approach to boundedly rational quadratic models". Physica A. doi:10.1016/j.physa.2020.125309.
  15. Vernon L. Smith and Bart J. Wilson (2019). Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108185561.
  16. Kasthurirathna, Dharshana; Piraveenan, Mahendra (2015-06-11). "Emergence of scale-free characteristics in socio-ecological systems with bounded rationality". Scientific Reports. 5 (1): 10448. doi: 10.1038/srep10448 . ISSN   2045-2322. PMC   4464151 . PMID   26065713.

Further reading

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