Reconsidering the normative argument from bounded rationality

Andrea Polonioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


I take a fresh look at the normative argument from bounded rationality, which has been offered as one particular line of criticism to resist pessimistic views on human rationality. Commentators in the “rationality debate” have generally interpreted the argument appealing to the ought-implies-can principle and considered it unconvincing. I suggest an alternative way to interpret the argument, which appeals to the framework of “adaptive rationality” and better captures what scholars appealing to the normative relevance of people’s cognitive limitations had in mind. Whilst this conceptualization looks more promising, the argument so construed is no longer an independent objection to bias researchers, but is instead a particular case of the more general concern that behavior violating normative standards can be adaptive. Further, it is unclear whether this version of the argument licenses the optimistic verdicts about rationality generally associated with scholars appealing to the normative relevance of research on bounded rationality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-303
JournalTheory and Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2016


  • Adaptive rationality
  • biases
  • bounded rationality
  • heuristics
  • rational behavior


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