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Fast and Frugal Heuristics  

Konstantinos V. Katsikopoulos

Polymath, and also political scientist, Herbert Simon dared to point out that the amounts of time, information, computation, and other resources required for maximizing utility far exceed what is possible when real people have to make real decisions in the real world. In psychology, there are two main approaches to studying actual human judgment and decision making—the heuristics-and-bias and the fast-and-frugal-heuristics research programs. A distinctive characteristic of the fast-and-frugal-heuristics program is that it specifies formal models of heuristics and attempts to determine when people use them and what performance they achieve. These models rely on a few pieces of information that are processed in computationally simple ways. The information and computation are within human reach, which means that people rely on information they have relatively easy access to and employ simple operations such as summing or comparing numbers. Research in the laboratory and in the wild has found that most people use fast and frugal heuristics most of the time if a decision must be made quickly, information is expensive financially or cognitively to gather, or a single/few attributes of the problem strongly point towards an option. The ways in which people switch between heuristics is studied in the framework of the adaptive toolbox. Work employing computer simulations and mathematical analyses has uncovered conditions under which fast and frugal heuristics achieve higher performance than benchmarks from statistics and machine learning, and vice versa. These conditions constitute the theory of ecological rationality. This theory suggests that fast and frugal heuristics perform better than complex optimization models if the available information is of low quality or scarce, or if there exist dominant options or attributes. The bias-variance decomposition of statistical prediction error, which is explained in layperson’s terms, underpins these claims. Research on fast and frugal heuristics suggests a governance approach not based on nudging, but on boosting citizen competence.

Article

Judicial Dissent in Collegial Courts: Theory and Evidence  

Nuno Garoupa and Catarina Santos Botelho

In collegial courts, disagreements are inevitable. Are these disagreements advantageous or disadvantageous for lawmaking? Why, when, and how do judges decide to disagree with each other? The literature about collegial courts includes extensive normative and positive theories about separate opinions as well as how these kinds of decisions are made. Scholars offer different explanations based on distinct frameworks: a cost–benefit analysis (within rational-choice theory), the principal–agent model, and via legal culture. By considering the complexity of separate opinions in style, substance, collegiality, and frequency, it is possible to find compromises between both (normative and positive) strains of the literature. These compromises reflect a fundamental divergence between private (individual) and social motivations to promote separate opinions.