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A brief history of heuristics : How did research on heuristics evolve?

  • Heuristics are often characterized as rules of thumb that can be used to speed up the process of decision-making. They have been examined across a wide range of fields, including economics, psychology, and computer science. However, scholars still struggle to find substantial common ground. This study provides a historical review of heuristics as a research topic before and after the emergence of the subjective expected utility (SEU) theory, emphasising the evolutionary perspective that considers heuristics as resulting from the development of the brain. We find it useful to distinguish between deliberate and automatic uses of heuristics, but point out that they can be used consciously and subconsciously. While we can trace the idea of heuristics through many centuries and fields of application, we focus on the evolution of the modern notion of heuristics through three waves of research, starting with Herbert Simon in the 1950s, who introduced the notion of bounded rationality and suggested the use of heuristics in artificial intelligence, thereby paving the way for all later research on heuristics. A breakthrough came with Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the 1970s, who analysed the biases arising from using heuristics. The resulting research programme became the subject of criticism by Gerd Gigerenzer in the 1990s, who argues that an ‘adaptive toolbox’ consisting of ‘fast-and-frugal’ heuristics can yield ‘ecologically rational’ decisions.

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Document Type:Article
Author:Mohamad HjeijORCiD, Arnis Vilks
Chairs and Professorships:Chair of Microeconomics
Parent Title (English):Humanities and Social Sciences Communications
Date of Publication (online):2023/02/17
Article Number:64
Page Number:15
Tag:Economics; Psychology
Content Focus:Academic Audience
Peer Reviewed:Yes
Rankings:SJR Ranking / Q2
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International