Simulating bounded rationality: Optimality modelling without an optimality commitment.
At Workshop on Science and Rationality: Naturalism and Bounded Rationality , Granada, Spain,
If you accept that evolved agents will be only boundedly rational, what are the consequences for the tools we use to make models of and construct theories about behaviour? In particular, consider methods like agent-based modelling -- with its roots in game theory and incorporating a notion of optimization or maximizing across alternatives -- do such methods remain viable? Or can cognitive science only deal with contingent, historical accounts of behaviour? I will argue that optimality models can continue to be used, because when used properly they were never wedded to a global notion of optimization or rationality in the first place. Such models are best viewed as ways of finding out which of a pre-specified set of behavioural alternatives is likely to dominate in a specific environment. As such, they are important tools for a program of research into bounded rationality. The argument will be illustrated with examples from modelling work on social learning in rats and intentional communication in monkeys.
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