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6 - How Do We Search for Solutions to Problems?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2022

Peter E. Earl
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
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Summary

Search for solution to problems inherently entails a problem of allocating attention in the face of uncertainty. It therefore requires the use of aspiration-based satisficing or other (dysfunctional or fast-and-frugal) heuristics and stopping rules to close off open-ended choice problems. In discussing the orthodox notion of optimal search, we end up concluding that it is logically deficient if applied to open-ended problems. Moreover, heuristic-based methods may be more effective means than lengthy deliberation for gathering information on which to base decisions – though it is shown how using heuristics can sometimes prove to be a dysfunctional way of navigating complex information environments. These issues are explored especially in relation to the challenges of choosing mobile (cell) phone connection contracts, filling job vacancies and finding marriage partners, with a focus on what is “procedurally rational,” i.e., contextually appropriate deliberation. The chapter’s analysis of shortcut search methods includes the role of market institutions, goodwill relationships and creative thinking, along with the use of heuristics for dealing with source credibility issues.

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Principles of Behavioral Economics
Bringing Together Old, New and Evolutionary Approaches
, pp. 146 - 178
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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