Mind & Society

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 133–148 | Cite as

Gigerenzer’s ‘external validity argument’ against the heuristics and biases program: an assessment

  • Andrea Polonioli


Gigerenzer’s ‘external validity argument’ plays a pivotal role in his critique of the heuristics and biases research program (HB). The basic idea is that (a) the experimental contexts deployed by HB are not representative of the real environment and that (b) the differences between the setting and the real environment are causally relevant, because they result in different performances by the subjects. However, by considering Gigerenzer’s work on frequencies in probability judgments, this essay attempts to show that there are fatal flaws in the argument. Specifically, each of the claims is controversial: whereas (b) is not adequately empirically justified, (a) is inconsistent with the ‘debiasing’ program of Gigerenzer’s ABC group. Therefore, whatever reason we might have for believing that the experimental findings of HB lack experimental validity, this should not be based on Gigerenzer’s version of the argument.


Heuristics and biases Judgemental biases External validity Probabilistic thinking Frequentistic thinking Debiasing Field experiments 



I would like to thank Campbell Brown, Francesco Guala, Matteo Motterlini, Tillmann Vierkant and two anonymous referees for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. The usual disclaimer about remaining errors applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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