Arthur Lupia et. al. (eds.) Elements of Reason: Cognition, Choice and the Bounds of Rationality (2000), Chapters 2, 9, 13.

‘Main Argument:

Chapter 2: This chapter looks at how individuals deal with uncertainty in decision-making and resource allocation. It is impossible to make sense out of the diverse performance of economics and politics if one confines one’s behavioural assumptions to substantive rationality in which agents know what is in their self-interest and act accordingly. Social features are modelled as needing communication that allows individuals’ experiential learning to be based on a culturally provided set of categories. Understanding how shared mental models (SMM) evolve is the most important step in recognising patterns of “rationality”.


Chapter 9: The authors propose a theory of motivated reasoning that can account for why both ordinary citizens and political sophisticates are prone to follow Bacon’s dictum (update your preferences on new things you hear that you agree with and discard those that you do not agree with).


Method: Theory building chapters using cognitive science approach.



== Notes ==



Chapter 2: Shared Mental Models (North and Denzau)


– Individuals with common backgrounds and experiences will have reasonably convergent shares mental models (SMM)

– This results in multiple equilibria

– SMM’s are typically Bayesian or updating models [37]

– Bayesian models: prior beliefs are updated by some direct learning that generates observational data [41]

– A set of prior beliefs about action-outcome mappings is being learned as a part of the SMM, whether through traditional culture or ideologically


Four features of the choice environment determine the rationality model: [27-28]

  1. a) complexity
  2. b) motivation
  3. c) the individual’s capital investment nature
  4. d) information


“Hard choices”

– Arthur (1992) argues that when dealing with hard choices, individuals use their “complexity boundary”

– If the complexity is too great, then substantive rationality will not hold [31]

– Before understanding complexity, one has to understand the two-step process of learning:

– First, learning entails developing a structure by which to make sense of the world

– Second, interpreting the data (usually along cultural or physical lines)


Effects of SMM’s:

– To generate a set of concepts and language that make communication easier

– Where SMM’s are available, the concepts embedded in the structure of mental models can be made more similar (easier to share)

– Institutions can effect SMM’s because they also help individuals order their environment [40]


Chapter 9: Three Steps toward a Theory of Motivated Political Reasoning (Lodge & Taber)


– Looks at ideas of “hot cognition processing” (Abelson 1963) the political phenomena that you studied recently are charged up

– Also looks at “on-line processing” (Lodge, Steenbergen & Brau 1995) when people see their task as forming or revising an overall impression of a person, place, event or idea, they automatically extract the affective value of the message and then spontaneously revise their summary

– In other words, feelings become information [184]


A Theory of Motivated Reasoning:

– All reasoning is motivated

– Reasoning depends on your directional and accuracy goals (this creates a two-axis spectrum – see page 187 for typology]

– The five steps in making a decision are 1) defining the problem/establishing goals; 2) gathering evidence; 3) assessing implications; 4) re-assessing implications; 5)integrating information

– Some factors involved in the decision-making are stored in the long term memory; therefore decision-making also involves a mechanism that takes information from the LTM to the working memory (WM)

– The process is outlined in details around pages 192-194, but the short hand version is that people’s memories are triggered, information is activated and susceptible to priming

– When motivated by an accuracy goal, information processing involves: gathering relevant evidence, evaluating it even-handedly; postponement of the decision until information is deemed good enough [206]


Chapter 13: Constructing a theory of reasoning: Conclusion


– Book tries to recommend a way to merge rational choice and behavioural political science

– Draws out a few principles: connectionism – the choices people make depend on beliefs about causality and interactions between elements in the external environment; uncertainty clouds all choice; cognition independent of utility maximisation is not enough to describe uncertainty’s effects, and; context can guide and constrain reason and choice

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