, Volume 3, Issue 2-3, pp 195-215

Making Good Decisions with Minimal Information: Simultaneous and Sequential Choice

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The adaptive pressures facing humans and other animals to make decisions quickly can be met both by increasing internal information-processing speed and by minimizing the amount of information to be used. Here we focus on the latter effect and ask how, and how well, agents can make good decisions with a minimal amount of information, using two specific tasks as examples. When a choice must be made between simultaneously-available options, minimal information in the form of binary recognition (whether or not each item is recognized) can be used in the recognition heuristic to choose effectively. When options are encountered sequentially one at a time, minimal information as to whether or not each option is the best encountered so far is sufficient to guide agents using a simple search-cutoff rule to high performance along several choice criteria. Both of these examples have important economic as well as biological applications, and show the power of simple fast and frugal heuristics to produce good decisions with little information.