Rationality As Mental Representation: Decision-Making at the Cross-Roads

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 27 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Alexandra GHEONDEA ELADI, Romanian Academy, Research Institute for Quality of Life, Romania
This presentation will discuss empirical results from an experiment and from an interview-based research which reveal the use of decision-making strategies pertaining to a wide variety of decision-making theories. In light of these findings, rational choice is reflected upon as one of many possible mental representations, alongside other decision-making theories, like multi-criteria decisions, bounded rationality and prospect theory. Both the experiment-based and the interview-based research investigated treatment decisions of patients with chronic illness.  A mental representation in this case is a mental re-construction of a perceived reality or a cumulated set of perceived stimuli. In decision research this is a relatively new term (however not new in psychology and linguistics (Mental Models and Reasoning Lab n.d.; Wittgenstein 1922)) which has the potential to de-construct the classical boundaries between different decision theories (Loewenstein 2001; Mazur 2015; Arentze et al. 2008; Huber et al. 2011). As this research departed from the question of how people decide, it will be argued here, based on the empirical results and on current literature that it is not decisions or choices that are rational, at least not in the sense of decision as resolution. Instead, unlike in classical rational choice theory where rationality is given by preference properties, in this explanatory framework mental representations on which decisions are based contribute to the rationality or irrationality of the decision. More than this, since mental representations can be socially determined or learned, rational choices appear to be closer to social psychology than to economic theory.