Rationality for Engineers Part II- Heuristics and Biases


Brunel University, London


Two major research programs on the use of heuristics in decision-making exist, and each has its own set of followers. The first program was initiated by Kahneman and Tversky in the 70s. They primarily concentrated on the errors caused by using heuristics. This has now grown into many heuristics named after their associated biases. The second program was initiated by Gigerenzer and colleagues in Germany. Gigerenzer argues that although simple heuristics sometimes leads to “biased” decisions, they can deliver better answers in some situations. This is particularly true for uncertain or complex environments, where there is only a small data sample or there is no time to formally seek an optimized decision.  Gigerenzer and colleagues have generated a substantial body of evidence that humans use simple heuristics, often with great results. Like Kahneman and Tversky, Gigerenzer’s work has attracted researchers exploring the power of “Fast and Frugal” Heuristics, and how they are used by humans. This part, of the four-part paper, discusses Kahneman and Gigerenzer's findings concerning engineering decision making. Avoiding errors when using simple heuristics is discussed in Part IV.


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