Posts in Category: representation

Article: Heuristics — Tools for an uncertain world

I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer,
to treat everything as if it were a nail.
Abraham H. Maslow (1966, p. 15f.)


Hansjörg Neth, Gerd Gigerenzer

Heuristics: Tools for an uncertain world

We distinguish between situations of risk, where all options, consequences, and probabilities are known, and situations of uncertainty, where they are not.  Probability theory and statistics are the best tools for deciding under risk but not under uncertainty, which characterizes most relevant problems that humans have to solve.  Uncertainty requires simple heuristics that are robust rather than optimal.

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: 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. 

Chapter: The cognitive basis of arithmetic

The truths about numbers are in us; but still we learn them.
G.W. Leibniz (1765), Nouveaux essais sur l’entendement humain, p. 85

[Copyright neth.de, 2010]:

Helen De Cruz, Hans Neth, Dirk Schlimm (2010). The cognitive basis of arithmetic.

Helen De Cruz, Hansjörg Neth, Dirk Schlimm

The cognitive basis of arithmetic

Overview:  Arithmetic is the theory of the natural numbers and one of the oldest areas of mathematics.  Since almost all other mathematical theories make use of numbers in some way or other, arithmetic is also one of the most fundamental theories of mathematics.  But numbers are not just abstract entities that are subject to mathematical ruminations — they are represented, used, embodied, and manipulated in order to achieve many different goals, e.g., to count or denote the size of a collection of objects, to trade goods, to balance bank accounts, or to play the lottery. Consequently, numbers are both abstract and intimately connected to language and to our interactions with the world.  In the present paper we provide an overview of research that has addressed the question of how animals and humans learn, represent, and process numbers.