Towards taking into account the complexity of finding the best option in decision-making systems

Peter Bossaerts, Carsten Murawski, Computational Complexity and Human Decision-Making, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 21, Issue 12, 2017, Pages 917-929, DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2017.09.005.

The rationality principle postulates that decision-makers always choose the best action available to them. It underlies most modern theories of decision-making. The principle does not take into account the difficulty of finding the best option. Here, we propose that computational complexity theory (CCT) provides a framework for defining and quantifying the difficulty of decisions. We review evidence showing that human decision-making is affected by computational complexity. Building on this evidence, we argue that most models of decision-making, and metacognition, are intractable from a computational perspective. To be plausible, future theories of decision-making will need to take into account both the resources required for implementing the computations implied by the theory, and the resource constraints imposed on the decision-maker by biology.

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