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The Ecological Rationality of Simple Group Heuristics: Effects of Group Member Strategies on Decision Accuracy


  • Torsten Reimer


  • Ulrich Hoffrage


The notion of ecological rationality implies that the accuracy of a decision strategy depends on features of the information environment in which it is tested. We demonstrate that the performance of a group may be strongly affected by the decision strategies used by its individual members and specify how this effect is moderated by environmental features. Specifically, in a set of simulation studies, we systematically compared four decision strategies used by the individual group members: two linear, compensatory decision strategies and two simple, noncompensatory heuristics. Individual decisions were aggregated by using a majority rule. To assess the ecological rationality of the strategies, we varied (a) the distribution of cue validities, (b) the quantity, and (c) the quality of shared information. Group performance strongly depended on the distribution of cue validities. When validities were linearly distributed, groups using a compensatory strategy achieved the highest accuracy. Conversely, when cue validities followed a J-shaped distribution, groups using a simple lexicographic heuristic performed best. While these effects were robust across different quantities of shared information, the quality of shared information exerted stronger effects on group performance. Consequences for prescriptive theories on group decision making are discussed Copyright Springer 2006

Suggested Citation

  • Torsten Reimer & Ulrich Hoffrage, 2006. "The Ecological Rationality of Simple Group Heuristics: Effects of Group Member Strategies on Decision Accuracy," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 60(4), pages 403-438, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:theord:v:60:y:2006:i:4:p:403-438
    DOI: 10.1007/s11238-005-4750-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robin M. Hogarth & Natalia Karelaia, 2005. "Simple Models for Multiattribute Choice with Many Alternatives: When It Does and Does Not Pay to Face Trade-offs with Binary Attributes," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 51(12), pages 1860-1872, December.
    2. Wiktor Adamowicz & Michel Hanemann & Joffre Swait & Reed Johnson & David Layton & Michel Regenwetter & Torsten Reimer & Robert Sorkin, 2005. "Decision Strategy and Structure in Households: A “Groups” Perspective," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 387-399, December.
    3. Robin Hogarth & Natalia Karelaia, 2006. "“Take-the-Bestâ€\x9D and Other Simple Strategies: Why and When they Work “Wellâ€\x9D with Binary Cues," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 61(3), pages 205-249, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gero Schwenk & Torsten Reimer, 2008. "Simple Heuristics in Complex Networks: Models of Social Influence," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 11(3), pages 1-4.
    2. Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos, 2011. "Psychological Heuristics for Making Inferences: Definition, Performance, and the Emerging Theory and Practice," Decision Analysis, INFORMS, vol. 8(1), pages 10-29, March.
    3. Marc Jekel & Andreas Glockner & Arndt Broder & Viktoriya Maydych, 2014. "Approximating rationality under incomplete information: Adaptive inferences for missing cue values based on cue-discrimination," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 9(2), pages 129-147, March.
    4. Berthomé, Guy-El-Karim & Thomas, Alban, 2017. "A Context-based Procedure for Assessing Participatory Schemes in Environmental Planning," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 113-123.
    5. Shenghua Luan & Konstantinos V Katsikopoulos & Torsten Reimer, 2012. "When Does Diversity Trump Ability (and Vice Versa) in Group Decision Making? A Simulation Study," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 7(2), pages 1-8, February.


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