When to use which heuristic: A rational solution to the strategy selection problem

Abstract

The human mind appears to be equipped with a toolbox full of cognitive strategies, but how do people decide when to use which strategy? We leverage rational metareasoning to derive a rational solution to this problem and apply it to decision making under uncertainty. The resulting theory reconciles the two poles of the debate about human rationality by proposing that people gradually learn to make rational use of fallible heuristics. We evaluate this theory against empirical data and existing accounts of strategy selection (i.e. SSL and RELACS). Our results suggest that while SSL and RELACS can explain people's ability to adapt to homogeneous environments in which all decision problems are of the same type, rational metareasoning can additionally explain people's ability to adapt to heterogeneous environments and flexibly switch strategies from one decision to the next.


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