A Rational Analysis Of Human Behavior Based On The Theory Of The Environment

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Generally speaking a rational analysis (RA) is “an explanation of an aspect of human behavior based on the assumption that it is optimized somehow to the structure of the environment” (Anderson, 1991, p. 471). Anderson (1991) developed a model to predict memory performance where the goal of memory is assumed to be to provide access to needed information acquired in the past. This model is an idealization that represents what memory items are made readily available, given a model of the environment in which the memory is to be retrieved, the value of retrieving the memory, and the cost of retrieving the memory (Anderson). On this idealization, a rationally designed information-retrieval system stops retrieving when the probability that the memory is relevant to the current context is low enough that the expected gain (measured in some appropriate way relative to the agent’s goals) of retrieving the target memory is less than the cost of retrieving the memory (Anderson).
As applied to human reasoning, the model for this approach is very much like the ‘rational man’ of economics. As in economics, there is no supposition that the agent consciously chooses its behavior. The only supposition in RA is that the behavior of the agent is due to cognitive processes that solve problems in an optimal way given resource limitations and costs (Anderson, 1991). Processes in the cognitive system are such that, given costs and resource limitations, the behavior of the

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