Posts in Category: methodology

Paper: Rational task analysis (RTA)

Just as a scissors cannot cut paper without two blades,
a theory of thinking and problem solving cannot predict behavior
unless it encompasses both an analysis of the structure of task environments
and an analysis of the limits of rational adaptation to task requirements.
(Newell & Simon, 1972, p. 55)


Hansjörg Neth, Chris R. Sims, Wayne D. Gray

Rational task analysis: A methodology to benchmark bounded rationality

Abstract:  How can we study bounded rationality?  We answer this question by proposing rational task analysis (RTA)—a systematic approach that prevents experimental researchers from drawing premature conclusions regarding the (ir-)rationality of agents.  RTA is a methodology and perspective that is anchored in the notion of bounded rationality and aids in the unbiased interpretation of results and the design of more conclusive experimental paradigms. 

Paper: Foraging for alternative options

Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble,
and if I stay it will be double…
The Clash


Hansjörg Neth, Neele Engelmann, Ralf Mayrhofer

Foraging for alternatives: Ecological rationality in keeping options viable

Abstract:  Do we invest irrational amounts of effort into keeping options viable, or do we manage available and threatened options in an adaptive fashion? 

Paper: Melioration as rational choice

Maximization (…) is not a general explanatory principle for behavior. (…)
Melioration (…) is the dynamic process controlling allocation of time across response alternatives.
Herrnstein & Vaughan (1980). Melioration and behavioral allocation, p. 143+172


Chris R. Sims, Hansjörg Neth, Robert A. JacobsWayne D. Gray

Melioration as rational choice: Sequential decision making in uncertain environments

Abstract:  Melioration — defined as choosing a lesser, local gain over a greater longer term gain — is a behavioral tendency that people and pigeons share.  As such, the empirical occurrence of meliorating behavior has frequently been interpreted as evidence that the mechanisms of human choice violate the norms of economic rationality.  In some environments, the relationship between actions and outcomes is known. In this case, the rationality of choice behavior can be evaluated in terms of how successfully it maximizes utility given knowledge of the environmental contingencies.  In most complex environments, however, the relationship between actions and future outcomes is uncertain and must be learned from experience.  When the difficulty of this learning challenge is taken into account, it is not evident that melioration represents suboptimal choice behavior. 

Paper: Interactive coin addition


‘Can you do Addition?’ the White Queen asked.
‘What’s one and one and one and one and one
and one and one and one and one and one?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Alice. ‘I lost count.’
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass, Chapter IX.

[Copyright neth.de, 1999–2014]:

Hans Neth and Steve Payne (2011): Interactive coin addition: How hands can help us think. Paper presented at CogSci2011.


Hansjörg Neth, Stephen J. Payne

Interactive coin addition: How hands can help us think

Abstract:  Does using our hands help us to add the value of a set of coins?