Bounded Rationality
Bounded Rationality: A Response to Rational Analysis
Simon criticizes Anderson's proposed rational analysis as misdirected based
on the following three arguments:
 Humans are
not optimal and only in some cases locally optimal;
 Assumptions made
by cognitive modelers about how an agent performs architectural
tasks, which Anderson labels unnecessary, are
subsequently tacitly repeated by him in his analyses;
 Data regarding
human behavior on isomorphic task domains explicitly denies the theory.
(Question: Item 2 in Anderson's
recipe states that one must model the
environment to which the agent has adapted. Does this not limit the
task to domain to particular isomorphs and thereby negate the
criticism?)
Optimality
Evolution did not give rise to optimal agents, but to agents which are
in some senses locally optimal at best, locally satisfactory in norm,
and becoming extinct at worst. Thus, a theory based upon optimal
behaviors is tenuous at best.
Optimization implies that the goals of the agent are known
explicitly. When synthesizing or tasking an agent one can know
or determine the goals of the agent, but when analyzing the behavior
of an arbitrary agent, one does not know the goals. In fact, the
range of rational goals can lead to such variant behavior that
assumptions about the goals cannot be made with confidence. The
example cited in depth by Simon is that of economic predictions.
Another implicit assumption underlying optimization is that the
utility functions are known (see recipe
item 3). In fact, real agents must often act with insufficient
knowledge by estimating these. Estimates will range from accurate to
wrong, from simple to sophisticated. Since rational analysis a
variant of which lead to the economic theories plagued with these
problems does not
account for these phenomena, it cannot be taken as a panacea paradigm
for analysis.
Assumptions
Anderson criticizes mechanismfocused cognitive modelers with making
unnecessary assumptions about how an agent performs
architectural functions such as memory management and computations.
However in his analyses, he is forced to make similar assumptions.
Examine the assumptions made by Anderson in his analyses:
 Fan Effect
 Powerlaw of Practice
 Categorization
Rationality versus behavior
While rational analysis can yield some information about cognition
such as that a solution can be found, the particular solution
found by particular subjects cannot necessarily be found. Anderson
argues that by defining the environment to which the subject has
adapted, the optimal solution will be the solution determined by the
subject and that these constraints uniquely define the optimum. Simon
argues that these constraints are not sufficient to determine
uniqueness. Without a uniquely defined solution, subjectspecific
strategies cannot be determined nor studied.
In 1957, Simon proposed the notion of
Bounded Rationality: that
property of an agent
that behaves in a manner that is nearly optimal with respect to its
goals as its resources will allow.
Bounded rationality better
describes agent behaviors than Anderson's optimal rationality
approach for the following reasons:

agents are not optimal
 the methods by which architectural
tasks are performed significantly affect the agents behaviors

the representations of information and the strategies for solving
problems must all be discovered by the agent
 agents' behaviors
across isomorphic task domains are not constant
In considering
bounded rationality, Simon suggests that researchers not limit
their focus to signature data but look for all the data they
can in order to uncover the underlying processes. He concludes by
providing a lower bound of relevance to cognitive analysis:
 The exact ways in which neurons accomplish their functions
is not important only their functional capabilities and the
organization of these.
Go to the List of Theories.
Return to the Table of Contents.
Current Location: Common Descriptions  Theory  Bounded Rationality