The Robust Beauty of Ordinary Information

Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos, Lael J. Schooler, Ralph Hertwig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Heuristics embodying limited information search and noncompensatory processing of information can yield robust performance relative to computationally more complex models. One criticism raised against heuristics is the argument that complexity is hidden in the calculation of the cue order used to make predictions. We discuss ways to order cues that do not entail individual learning. Then we propose and test the thesis that when orders are learned individually, people's necessarily limited knowledge will curtail computational complexity while also achieving robustness. Using computer simulations, we compare the performance of the take-the-best heuristic-with dichotomized or undichotomized cues-to benchmarks such as the naïve Bayes algorithm across 19 environments. Even with minute sizes of training sets, take-the-best using undichotomized cues excels. For 10 environments, we probe people's intuitions about the direction of the correlation between cues and criterion. On the basis of these intuitions, in most of the environments take-the-best achieves the level of performance that would be expected from learning cue orders from 50% of the objects in the environments. Thus, ordinary information about cues-either gleaned from small training sets or intuited-can support robust performance without requiring Herculean computations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1259-1266
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bootstrapping
  • Heuristics
  • Inductive inference
  • Robustness
  • Take-the-best

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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