IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Rational ignoring with unbounded cognitive capacity


  • Berg, Nathan
  • Hoffrage, Ulrich


In canonical decision problems with standard assumptions, we demonstrate that inversely related payoffs and probabilities can produce expected-payoff-maximizing decisions that are independent of payoff-relevant information. This phenomenon of rational ignoring, where expected-payoff maximizers ignore costless and genuinely predictive information, arises because the conditioning effects of such signals disappear on average (i.e., under the expectations operator) even though they exert non-trivial effects on payoffs and probabilities considered in isolation (i.e., before integrating). Thus, rational ignoring requires no decision costs, cognitive constraints, or other forms of bounded rationality. This implies that simple decision rules relying on small subsets of the available information can, depending on the environment in which they are used, achieve high payoffs. Ignoring information is therefore rationalizable solely as a consequence of the shape of the stochastic payoff distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Berg, Nathan & Hoffrage, Ulrich, 2008. "Rational ignoring with unbounded cognitive capacity," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 792-809, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:29:y:2008:i:6:p:792-809

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton & Christopher Harris & Bruno Jullien, 1991. "Optimal Learning by Experimentation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(4), pages 621-654.
    2. James Dow, 1991. "Search Decisions with Limited Memory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 1-14.
    3. Rodepeter, Ralf & Winter, Joachim, 1999. "Rules of thumb in life-cycle savings models," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 99-81, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    4. David H. Cutler & James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1988. "What Moves Stock Prices?," Working papers 487, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    5. Juan D. Carrillo & Thomas Mariotti, 2000. "Strategic Ignorance as a Self-Disciplining Device," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(3), pages 529-544.
    6. Vernon L. Smith, 2003. "Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 465-508, June.
    7. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
    8. Robin Hogarth & Natalia Karelaia, 2005. "Regions of rationality: Maps for bounded agents," Economics Working Papers 828, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Mar 2006.
    9. Garbacz, Christopher, 1990. "Estimating seat belt effectiveness with seat belt usage data from the Centers for Disease Control," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 83-88, September.
    10. Laura Martignon & Ulrich Hoffrage, 2002. "Fast, frugal, and fit: Simple heuristics for paired comparison," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 52(1), pages 29-71, February.
    11. Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "A Memory-Based Model of Bounded Rationality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(3), pages 735-774.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Berg, Nathan & Hoffrage, Ulrich, 2010. "Compressed environments: Unbounded optimizers should sometimes ignore information," MPRA Paper 26372, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Monti, Marco & Pelligra, Vittorio & Martignon, Laura & Berg, Nathan, 2014. "Retail investors and financial advisors: New evidence on trust and advice taking heuristics," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 67(8), pages 1749-1757.
    3. Marco Monti & Riccardo Boero & Nathan Berg & Gerd Gigerenzer & Laura Martignon, 2012. "How do common investors behave? Information search and portfolio choice among bank customers and university students," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 11(2), pages 203-233, December.
    4. Martin Binder, 2014. "Should evolutionary economists embrace libertarian paternalism?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 515-539, July.
    5. Nathan Berg & Gerd Gigerenzer, 2010. "As-if behavioral economics: neoclassical economics in disguise?," History of Economic Ideas, Fabrizio Serra Editore, Pisa - Roma, vol. 18(1), pages 133-166.
    6. Berg, Nathan, 2014. "Success from satisficing and imitation: Entrepreneurs' location choice and implications of heuristics for local economic development," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 67(8), pages 1700-1709.
    7. Osimani, Barbara, 2012. "Risk information processing and rational ignoring in the health context," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 169-179.
    8. Berg, Nathan & Biele, Guido & Gigerenzer, Gerd, 2010. "Does consistency predict accuracy of beliefs?: Economists surveyed about PSA," MPRA Paper 26590, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. repec:eee:jobhdp:v:141:y:2017:i:c:p:29-42 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:jbrese:v:82:y:2018:i:c:p:127-140 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Carlos Sáenz-Royo, 2017. "A plausible Decision Heuristics Model: Fallibility of human judgment as an endogenous problem," Working Papers 2017/04, Economics Department, Universitat Jaume I, Castellón (Spain).
    12. Flynn, Sean Masaki & Donnelly, Michael, 2012. "Does labor contract completeness drive unionization? Experimental evidence," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 445-454.
    13. Güth, Werner, 2010. "Satisficing and (un)bounded rationality--A formal definition and its experimental validity," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 308-316, March.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:29:y:2008:i:6:p:792-809. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.