Decision theory and cognitive choice

Original Paper in Decision and Game Theory


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.


Decision theory Cognitive choice Probability Plausibility Utility Information 



Prasanta Bandyopadhyay, James Franklin, Theo Kuipers, and Ana Portilla contributed insightful comments on an earlier version of this paper. Two anonymous referees and the editors of European Journal for Philosophy of Science offered highly constructive criticism of the present version. Audiences at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, Complutense University and the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain, and Visva Bharati University in India also provided valuable feedback. I am grateful to them all.


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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySaint Louis University—Madrid CampusMadridSpain

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