, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 147-172

Decision theory and cognitive choice

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Abstract

The focus of this study is cognitive choice: the selection of one cognitive option (a hypothesis, a theory, or an axiom, for instance) rather than another. The study proposes that cognitive choice should be based on the plausibilities of states posited by rival cognitive options and the utilities of these options' information outcomes. The proposal introduces a form of decision theory that is novel because comparative; it permits many choices among cognitive options to be based on merely comparative plausibilities and utilities. This form of decision theory intersects with recommendations by advocates of decision theory for cognitive choice, on the one hand, and defenders of comparative evaluation of scientific hypotheses and theories, on the other. But it differs from prior decision-theoretic proposals because it requires no more than minimal precision in specifying plausibilities and utilities. And it differs from comparative proposals because none has shown how comparative evaluations can be carried out within a decision-theoretic framework.