, Volume 189, Supplement 1, pp 39–49 | Cite as

Grounded rationality: Descriptivism in epistemic context

  • Shira Elqayam


Normativism, the approach that judges human rationality by comparison against normative standards, has recently come under intensive criticism as unsuitable for psychological enquiry, and it has been suggested that it should be replaced with a descriptivist paradigm. My goal in this paper is to outline and defend a meta-theoretical framework of such a paradigm, grounded rationality, based on the related principles of descriptivism and (moderate) epistemic relativism. Bounded rationality takes into account universal biological and cognitive limitations on human rationality. Grounded rationality accepts universal constraints but adds cognitive variability: Within-individual variability (dual processing), and individual as well as cultural differences. I discuss the implications of grounded rationality to dual processing, proposing that investing limited cognitive resources in analytic processing might be less instrumentally rational for individuals with low cognitive ability.


Descriptivism Grounded rationality Epistemic relativism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Psychology, School of Applied Social Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life SciencesDe Montfort UniversityLeicesterUK

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