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Psychologists and behavioral economists have established that humans exhibit a number of fairly predictable biases in their decision making. For example, when offered a menu, people generally choose one of the first items on it or the very last item.

KELLOGG.NORTHWESTERN

Decisions, Decisions

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Making Decisions

It would be easy to ascribe these tendencies to a simple quirk of evolution—a kind of mental tic encoded in our genes. But what if the cognitive biases we exhibit when making choices are not limited to us? What if these biases are basic emergent properties of any system forced to make decisions w...

Automatons are decision-making algorithms expressed mathematically rather than in code. These automatons commit the same “mistakes” that humans do when making decisions. An automaton may exhibit a “primacy” effect, in which it tends to pick one of the first items on a li...

When decision-makers are satisficing, it is not hard to see why they would be more likely to choose an item that appears earlier on a list, because they stop as soon as they find one that meets their pre-existing criteria, and might not even look at every item in a list.

Contrast this str...

Humans are neither perfectly rational decision-makers nor strict satisficers, no matter how Spock-like or impulsive any individual may seem.

A history-dependent satisficer automaton has some ability to remember what options it has seen before and to modify its criteria acc...

The effects that researchers derive using mathematical analysis show up everywhere in the real world. Humans are more likely to vote for candidates who appear first on a ballot, more likely to click on options at the top of their computer screen, and more likely to give high scores to competitors...

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