Minds and Machines

, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 543–564

How do Simple Rules `Fit to Reality' in a Complex World?

  • Malcolm R. Forster

DOI: 10.1023/A:1008304819398

Cite this article as:
Forster, M.R. Minds and Machines (1999) 9: 543. doi:10.1023/A:1008304819398


The theory of fast and frugal heuristics, developed in a new book called Simple Heuristics that make Us Smart (Gigerenzer, Todd, and the ABC Research Group, in press), includes two requirements for rational decision making. One is that decision rules are bounded in their rationality –- that rules are frugal in what they take into account, and therefore fast in their operation. The second is that the rules are ecologically adapted to the environment, which means that they `fit to reality.' The main purpose of this article is to apply these ideas to learning rules–-methods for constructing, selecting, or evaluating competing hypotheses in science, and to the methodology of machine learning, of which connectionist learning is a special case. The bad news is that ecological validity is particularly difficult to implement and difficult to understand. The good news is that it builds an important bridge from normative psychology and machine learning to recent work in the philosophy of science, which considers predictive accuracy to be a primary goal of science.

Bayesianismcomplexitydecision theoryfast and frugal heuristicsmachine learningphilosophy of sciencepredictive accuracysimplicity

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malcolm R. Forster
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA; E-mail