Munich Personal RePEc Archive

A tale of paradigm clash: Simon, situated cognition and the interpretation of bounded rationality

Petracca, Enrico (2015): A tale of paradigm clash: Simon, situated cognition and the interpretation of bounded rationality.


Download (579kB) | Preview


The intellectual figure of Herbert A. Simon is well known for having introduced the influential notion of bounded rationality in economics. Less known, at least from the economists’ point of view, is the figure of Simon as eminent cognitive psychologist, co-founder of so-called cognitivism, a mainstream approach in cognitive psychology until the 80s of the last century. In fact, the two faces of Simon’s intellectual figure, as rationality scholar and as cognitive scientist, are not factorizable at all: according to Simon himself, cognitivism is bounded rationality and bounded rationality is cognitivism. This paper tries to answer a simple research question: has the notion of bounded rationality fully followed the development of cognitive psychology beyond cognitivism in the post-Simonian era? If not, why? To answer such questions, this paper focuses on a very specific historical episode. In 1993, on the pages of the journal Cognitive Science, Simon (with his colleague Alonso Vera) openly confronted the proponents of a new (paradigmatic) view of cognition called situated cognition, a firm challenger of cognitivism, which was going to inspire cognitive psychology from then on. This paper claims that this tough confrontation, typical of a paradigm shift, might have prevented rationality studies in economics from coming fully in touch with the new paradigm in cognitive psychology. A reconstruction of the differences between cognitivism and situated cognition as they emerged in the confrontation is seen here as fundamental in order to assess and explore this hypothesis.

Logo of the University Library LMU Munich
MPRA is a RePEc service hosted by
the University Library LMU Munich in Germany.