IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Models of Bounded Rationality: The Approach of Fast and Frugal Heuristics


  • Ulrich Hoffrage

    () (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin)

  • Torsten Reimer

    (University of Basel, Basel)


In a complex and uncertain world, humans draw inferences and make decisions under the constraints of limited knowledge, resources, and time. Herbert Simon, with his call for models of bounded rationality, can be seen as one of the fathers of the recently initiated research program on "simple heuristics that make us smart" (Gigerenzer/Todd/the ABC Research Group, 1999). These heuristics perform well because they are ecologically rational: they explore the structure of environmental information and are adapted to this structure. The present review paper introduces the key concepts of this research tradition, and provides two examples: (1) The recognition heuristic, which exploits a partial lack of knowledge, and (2) Take The Best, a simple lexicographic strategy that deliberately ignores information although it is available. The paper explains their ecological rationality, provides empirical evidence of their use, and illustrates some of their applications in consumer behaviour and group decision making. Finally, this research program is related to various notions of rationality.

Suggested Citation

  • Ulrich Hoffrage & Torsten Reimer, 2004. "Models of Bounded Rationality: The Approach of Fast and Frugal Heuristics," management revue. Socio-economic Studies, Rainer Hampp Verlag, vol. 15(4), pages 437-459.
  • Handle: RePEc:rai:mamere:1861-9908_mrev_2004_04_hoffrage

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jonathan Levin & Steven Tadelis, 2005. "Profit Sharing and the Role of Professional Partnerships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 131-171.
    2. Sharon M. Oster & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1998. "Aging And Productivity Among Economists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 154-156, February.
    3. Uschi Backes-Gellner & Arndt Werner, 2003. "Entrepreneurial Signaling: Success Factors for Innovative Start-Ups," Working Papers 0055, University of Zurich, Institute for Strategy and Business Economics (ISU), revised Mar 2004.
    4. Barron, John M & Gjerde, Kathy Paulson, 1997. "Peer Pressure in an Agency Relationship," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(2), pages 234-254, April.
    5. Coupé, Tom & Smeets, Valerie & Warzynski, Frederic, 2003. "Incentives in Economic Departments: Testing Tournaments?," Working Papers 03-25, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
    6. David Austen-Smith, 2002. "Peer Pressure and Job Market Signaling," Discussion Papers 1352, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    7. Brent Boning & Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2007. "Opportunity Counts: Teams and the Effectiveness of Production Incentives," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25, pages 613-650.
    8. Armendariz de Aghion, Beatriz, 1999. "On the design of a credit agreement with peer monitoring," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 79-104, October.
    9. Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2003. "Beyond Incentive Pay: Insiders' Estimates of the Value of Complementary Human Resource Management Practices," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 155-180, Winter.
    10. Holzer, Harry J, 1994. "Job Vacancy Rates in the Firm: An Empirical Analysis," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 61(241), pages 17-36, February.
    11. Kandel, Eugene & Lazear, Edward P, 1992. "Peer Pressure and Partnerships," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 801-817, August.
    12. S.J. Prais, 1981. "Vocational Qualifications of the Labour Force in Britain and Germany," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 98(1), pages 47-59, November.
    13. Finegold, David & Soskice, David, 1988. "The Failure of Training in Britain: Analysis and Prescription," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(3), pages 21-53, Autumn.
    14. Michael Spence, 1973. "Job Market Signaling," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(3), pages 355-374.
    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. Salle, Isabelle & Seppecher, Pascal, 2016. "Social Learning About Consumption," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(07), pages 1795-1825, October.
    2. Basel, Jörn S. & Brühl, Rolf, 2013. "Rationality and dual process models of reasoning in managerial cognition and decision making," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 745-754.
    3. Reimann, Olivier & Schumacher, Christian & Vetschera, Rudolf, 2017. "How well does the OWA operator represent real preferences?," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 258(3), pages 993-1003.

    More about this item


    Bounded Rationality; Ecological Rationality; Simple Heuristics Recognition Heuristic; Take The Best;

    JEL classification:

    • F23 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - Multinational Firms; International Business
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    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:rai:mamere:1861-9908_mrev_2004_04_hoffrage. 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: (Rainer Hampp). 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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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.