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Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart

Ulrich Hoffrage
Berlin, Germany

This is not a research report from an individual, but the announcement of the publication of a book that summarizes some of the research conducted by a group, namely the ABC Research Group (Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin).

Substantial sections of the book have been inspired by Brunswikian ideas, and three of the authors (Gerd Gigerenzer, Ralph Hertwig, and Ulrich Hoffrage) are also on the Brunswik mailing list.

In particular, this book might be interesting for Brunswikians for two reasons. First, it emphasizes the importance of studying the environment to generate candidate models of cognitive processes. As Reinhard Selten put it on the book's back cover: "This book is a major contribution to the theory of bounded rationality. It illustrates that the surprising efficiency of fast and simple procedures is due to their fit with the structure of the environment in which they are used. The emphasis on this 'ecological rationality' is an advance in a promising and already fruitful new direction of research."

Second, the book dispenses with (multiple) regression as a mode of information integration. It shows that simple heuristics that rely only on one good reason are well able to compete with complex algorithms, such as multiple regression, when the task is to predict some criterion (on the environmental side of the lens). Moreover, it demonstrates that these simple heuristics are also useful as behavioral models (on the organism's side of the lens).

Below please find the "official" announcement of the book that contains more details.

          -Book Announcement-

Dear colleague,

          We are pleased to announce the publication of our new book, Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart by Gerd Gigerenzer, Peter M. Todd, and the ABC Research Group, from Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-512156-2, 416 pp., $35 hardcover).

This book, stemming from the research of our group over the past four years, describes how fast and frugal heuristics can make accurate decisions using only limited knowledge, time, and computation. We explore several classes of these heuristics and their application in domains varying from mate search to stock-market investment, using experiments, simulation, and mathematical analysis to understand how and where such simple strategies can work.

We have written an extensive precis of the book to appear in Behavioral and Brain Sciences next year, along with multiple reviews. You can see the precis, along with calls for BBS reviewers on the web at

Further information about the book, including a short description, table of contents, back-cover reviews, and links for ordering copies (we encourage you to look and ask for the book at your local independent bookstore, but after that, consider at 30% off), are on the web at

We welcome your feedback, and hope that you find the book and the results within stimulating! With best wishes,

Gerd Gigerenzer and Peter Todd

Contact Gerd Gigerenzer & Peter Todd

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