How heuristics handle uncertainty

Henry Brighton, Gerd Gigerenzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Traditionally, it is assumed that a trade-off exists between effort and accuracy: The more effort we put in, the more accurate our inferences. This chapter shows how this trade-off does not hold in general, or even typically, by explaining how simple heuristics that ignore information can outperform more sophisticated inference strategies. Explanations of such “less-is-more” effects are given using statistical learning theory applied to situations where organisms face what is referred to as the bias–variance dilemma. Under conditions of uncertainty, it is argued, heuristics can both be more accurate and consume fewer resources than typical “rational” models of cognitive processing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcological Rationality
Subtitle of host publicationIntelligence in the World
EditorsPeter M Todd, Gerd Gigerenzer
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9780199682676
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameEcological Rationality: Intelligence in the World


  • inference
  • bias–variance
  • dilemma
  • heuristics
  • unce


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