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Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart [Paperback]

by Gerd Gigerenzer, Peter M. Todd, ABC Research Group
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 2000 0195143817 978-0195143812 1
Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart invites readers to embark on a new journey into a land of rationality that differs from the familiar territory of cognitive science and economics. Traditional views of rationality tend to see decision makers as possessing superhuman powers of reason, limitless knowledge, and all of eternity in which to ponder choices. To understand decisions in the real world, we need a different, more psychologically plausible notion of rationality, and this book provides it. It is about fast and frugal heuristics--simple rules for making decisions when time is pressing and deep thought an unaffordable luxury. These heuristics can enable both living organisms and artificial systems to make smart choices, classifications, and predictions by employing bounded rationality.
But when and how can such fast and frugal heuristics work? Can judgments based simply on one good reason be as accurate as those based on many reasons? Could less knowledge even lead to systematically better predictions than more knowledge? Simple Heuristics explores these questions, developing computational models of heuristics and testing them through experiments and analyses. It shows how fast and frugal heuristics can produce adaptive decisions in situations as varied as choosing a mate, dividing resources among offspring, predicting high school drop out rates, and playing the stock market.
As an interdisciplinary work that is both useful and engaging, this book will appeal to a wide audience. It is ideal for researchers in cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and cognitive science, as well as in economics and artificial intelligence. It will also inspire anyone interested in simply making good decisions.

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"How do people cope in the real, complex world of confusing and overwhelming information and rapidly approaching deadlines? This important book starts a new quest for answers. Here, Gigerenzer, Todd, and their lively research group show that simple heuristics are powerful tools that do surprisingly well. The field of decision making will never be the same again."--Donald A. Norman, author of Things That Make Us Smart and The Invisible Computer


"Gigerenzer & Todd's volume represents a major advance in our understanding of human reasoning, with many genuinely new ideas on how people think and an impressive body of data to back them up. Simple Heuristics is indispensable for cognitive psychologists, economists, and anyone else interested in reason and rationality."--Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works and Words and Rules


"In the past few years, the theory of rational (sensible) human behavior has broken loose from the illusory and empirically unsupported notion that deciding rationally means maximizing expected utility. Research has learned to take seriously and study empirically how real human beings ... actually address the vast complexities of the world they inhabit. Simple Heuristics ... offers a fascinating introduction to this revolution in cognitive science, striking a great blow for sanity in the approach to human rationality."--Herbert A. Simon, Carnegie Mellon University, and Nobel Laureate in Economics


"This book is a major contribution to the theory of bounded rationality. It illustrates that the surprising efficiency of fast and simple procedures is due to their fit with the structure of the environment in which they are used. The emphasis on this ecological rationality is an advance in a promising and already fruitful new direction of research."--Reinhard Selten, Professor of Economics at the University of Bonn, and Nobel Laureate in Economics


"In recent years, and particularly in the culture wars, many people have written about rationality. These authors now provide a summary of this recent history, organized on the basis of different types of decision making. In each case, the authors summarize the literature so as to provide an implicit history. But the book is more fundamentally aimed at making rationality workable by showing 'the way that real people make the majority of their inferences and decisions.'"--Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences


"The underlying argument of the book is that the environments in which we evolved and in which we now live have certain regularities, and that decision making mechanisms--both evolved mechanisms, and the mechanisms that we actually use today--take advantage of these environmental regularities. Most of the book illustrates this argument by showing that in many circumstances shortcut decision making mechanisms (the 'simple heuristics' of the title) are remarkably accurate...This book by Gigerenzer and his associates marks a significant advance in the analysis." -- Paul H. Rubin, Journal of Bioeconomics, Vol 2, 2000


From the Author

How can anyone be rational in a world where knowledge is limited, time is pressing, and deep thought is often an unattainable luxury? In our book, "Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart," we invite readers to embark on a new journey into a land of rationality that differs from the familiar territory of cognitive science and economics. Traditional models of rationality in these fields have tended to view decision-makers as possessing supernatural powers of reason, limitless knowledge, and an eternity in which to make choices. But to understand decisions in the real world, we need a different, more psychologically plausible notion of rationality. This book provides such a view. It is about fast and frugal heuristics-simple rules for making decisions with realistic mental resources. These heuristics can enable both living organisms and artificial systems to make smart choices, judgments, and predictions by employing bounded rationality.

But when and how can such fast and frugal heuristics work? What heuristics are in the mind's "adaptive toolbox," and what building blocks compose them? Can judgments based simply on a single reason be as accurate as those based on many reasons? Could having less knowledge even lead to systematically better predictions than having more knowledge? We explore these questions by developing computational models of heuristics and testing them through theoretical analysis and practical experiments with people. We show how fast and frugal heuristics can yield adaptive decisions in situations as varied as choosing a mate, dividing resources among offspring, predicting high-school drop-out rates, and profiting from the stock market.

We have worked to create an interdisciplinary book that is both useful and engaging and will appeal to a wide audience. It is intended for readers interested in cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and cognitive science, as well as in economics and artificial intelligence. We hope that it will also inspire anyone who simply wants to make good decisions. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Series: Evolution and Cognition
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (September 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195143817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195143812
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #341,823 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
116 of 124 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Statistical, Mathematical, Academic January 21, 2002
Format:Paperback
As someone interested in the practice and theory of decision making, I came upon this book via a number of "listmania" lists that reccomend it. The first few chapters got me excited about the subject matter. The authors promised to present a new model for decision making, one that was simple, and one that works.
The ensuing pages compare several theoretical models, such as Multiple Linear Regression and Dawes Rule to their own Take the First and Take the Best models.
Most of the tests were simulated on a computer. You would feed each decision making model into the computer, and then feed in various data for it to make decisions on. One popular test is "Which is the most populated German City." The computer had data on various German Cities with populations over 100,000. It also had several indicators, such as whether it has a soccer team, or a rail system, or is a state capital. The system would present two cities, with the indicators, and the decision making model would figure out which was the most populous one.
Right now I'm in a chapter called "Bayesian Benchmarks for Fast and Frugal Heuristics." It's about halfway through the book, and I'm not sure I'll finish. While the second half sounds interesting, this book is highly academic and the authors are concerned with presenting proofs for everything they say, in detail. Sort of like a victorian novel that starts of by telling you what it's going to tell you, and then tells you several times. I may skim it because I do find the subject matter intereting.
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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, i liked it anyway December 29, 2003
By baylor
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Whether you like a book depends on what information you're looking for. i make computer models of human behavior so this book, which is easy to read but filled with concrete solutions and lots of supporting dat, was near-perfect for me
As a note, i'm picky when it comes both to writing and thinking. And i hate most books written by academics. Even the ones with good information (eg, Fodor's Modularity) are hard to read and filled with confusing, field-specific words. Not this book. It's really well written. Written in plain English, very few assumptions, very thorough analysis, lots of self-criticism, lots and lots of data (OK, that part is boring and can be skipped, but it's comforting to know it's there)
What's it about? Common AI, psych and economic decision and learning algorithms (decision trees, neural nets, Bayes, multiple linear regression, etc.) are compared to several absurdly simple algorithms the authors believe real humans use. The various approaches are compared and evaluated on the basis of performance, accuracy on training data, accuracy on test data (generalization) and amount of input data required. Tests are on the standard UC Irvine data learning test sets. Comparisions, outcome explanations and relevance to the human mind and the real world are provided. Explanations and analysises are easy to understand and pretty convincing
i've decided to use a lot of what was in this book in my software, things that have made my agents more natural and easier to implement. i absolutely love this book
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart book that makes decision making simple! December 13, 2000
Format:Paperback
This book introduced me to an exciting new way of thinking about decision making. "Heuristics" is basically just a fancy word for "rules of thumb" and the book shows convincingly how simple rules of thumb can go a very long way.
The 18 authors from various academic fields believe that decision rules and the environment in which they are used should always be considered together. Moreover it seems plausible that a simple rule which performs as well as a rule that requires more effort to apply, should be the preferred way of explaining the observed behavior.
The authors propose a bunch of simple heuristics for all kinds of problems. One particularly impressive example was the extremely simple "recognition heuristic" which e.g. proved to be quite successful on the stock market. For all heuristics in the book it is shown that they are easy to use, that they require little memory and computational capacity, and that therefore they appear to be very plausible models for explaining human (and animal) behavior.
If you are interested in decision making and/or if you are working in the fields of psychology, economics, artificial intelligence or related fields, this book is a "must-have"!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gigerenzer's clearest text - very inspiring. September 19, 2005
Format:Paperback
Gerd Gigerenzer is probably THE guru in heuristics - the art of picking a few shorthand rules to help us make complex decisions - but I found other works of his (Adaptive Thinking, Bounded Rationality) pretty dry going. By contrast this volume - a collection of stimulating, sometimes provocative essays by members of the ABC Research group (the centrer for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition) explores many facets of Heuristics and even puts heuristics to the test against other more computationally complex techniques to pick the outcomes for several complicated problems. Time and again, the simple rules of thumb out-perform the grindingly thorough statistical routines. For anyone researching human behaviour, the implicit challenge is to stop asking huge batteries of questions - and to look instead for the little telltale rules by which people navigate their complicated environments.

I'd say that if you were just starting to look at heuristics, then this this volume of essays would be a good starting point. Even if you skip the super-technical pieces, there's plenty of thought provoking material written in a lively, unexpectedly "human" style.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are so many books about 'biases''wrong? (Oh, and in the process,...
-

Are we really that flawed that in order to figure out which pizza to order you need to do multiple regression analysis? Read more
Published 16 months ago by Muir
2.0 out of 5 stars Too technical for me.
This book reads like a PhD thesis re-written for mass consumption. All the statistics are coma-inducing and I felt like I had to hunt for useful information. Read more
Published on July 15, 2010 by Bookeater
4.0 out of 5 stars Some good ideas, less widely applicable than they suggest
This book presents serious arguments in favor of using simple rules to make most decisions. They present many examples where getting a quick answer by evaluating a minimal amount... Read more
Published on April 30, 2010 by Peter McCluskey
1.0 out of 5 stars $26 for the Kindle Version?!?!
I agree with most of the other reviews that the book is well written but will likely be enjoyed only by those who are interested in a more academic approach to the subject. Read more
Published on October 26, 2008 by Turd Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile Insight into Mental Shortcuts
People aren't computers. Human beings live in a real world of scarcity and constraint. Even though time and information may be scarce, human beings must make high-stakes decisions. Read more
Published on October 14, 2005 by Rolf Dobelli
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book about cognitive pitfalls
It's really meant for a technical audience since this stuff is so cutting edge, but you shouldn't wait till the results appear in Time magazine. Read more
Published on July 19, 2003 by Amol Sarva
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