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date: 23 February 2020

bounded rationality

A Dictionary of Psychology

Andrew M. Colman

bounded rationality n. 

A concept introduced in influential articles in 1955 and 1956 by the US political scientist and decision theorist Herbert A(lexander) Simon (1916–2001) to refer to human cognitive capacities and decision processes that are not strictly rational and are therefore not guaranteed to produce optimal results. The bounds on human rationality arise from limitations of our information-processing abilities and the costs involved in exhaustive comparison of all available options; furthermore, perfectly rational choice is often impossible to achieve in practice, as (for example) in the travelling salesman problem. Cognitive heuristics, including Simon's own satisficing, and elimination by aspects are among the most thoroughly investigated bounded-rationality choice procedures. See also psychological decision theory.