Why Simple Heuristics Make Life Both Easier and Harder: A Social–Psychological Perspective

Klaus Fiedler and Michaela Wänke

in Simple Heuristics in a Social World

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195388435
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199950089 | DOI:

Series: Evolution and Cognition Series

Why Simple Heuristics Make Life Both Easier and Harder: A Social–Psychological Perspective

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The purpose of the present chapter is to consider social rationality from the perspective of social psychology. According to the dual-process approaches that dominate contemporary social psychology, rationality is only possible in the systematic processing mode, whereas the heuristic processing mode is considered intrinsically flawed, in contrast to the unifying theme of the present volume. This chapter argues that social psychology's old-fashioned distinction of heuristic and systematic processing modes is hardly tenable. At the same time, the chapter shows that empirical and theoretical research in social psychology has distinct implications for all three major facets of rationality: probabilities, utilities, and integration rules. In social environments, the assessment of probabilities depends crucially on the active participation of social beings, who must not be conceived as passive observers but actively search for and often create information in a dynamic interaction with their social and physical environment. Utilities, the other major constituent of decision theories, are also subject to typical social trade-offs and compensation effects. One person's gains are usually other persons' losses; what is pleasant in the short run is often unpleasant in the long run. Last but not least, the integration of probabilities and utilities becomes a social issue because many cognitive functions of remembering, thinking, reasoning, judging, and deciding do not take place within isolated individuals' minds but in dyads, groups, and organizations.

Keywords: correspondence; coherence; utility assessment; probabilistic assessment; information integration; regression trap; compensation; logic of conversation; collective decision making; normative standards

Chapter.  12152 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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