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.
|There is no reason to suppose that most human beings are
engaged in maximizing anything unless it be unhappiness,
and even this with incomplete success.
|R.H. Coase (1980), The Firm, the Market, and the Law, p. 4|
[Copyright neth.de, 2006]:
Hans Neth, Chris Sims, Wayne Gray (2006). Melioration dominates maximization: Stable suboptimal performance despite global feedback. Paper presented at CogSci 2006.
Abstract: Situations that present individuals with a conflict between local and global gains often evoke a behavioral pattern known as melioration — a preference for immediate rewards over higher long-term gains. Using a variant of a binary forced- choice paradigm by Tunney & Shanks (2002), we explored the potential role of global feedback as a means to reduce this bias.