2005/28 LEM Working Paper Series

Bounded Rationality, Cognitive Maps, and Trial and Error Learning

Richard R. Nelson
Bounded Rationality, Search, Progress

The term "bounded rationality" is meant to connote the reasoning capabilities of an actor who, on the one hand, has a goal to achieve and an at least partially formed theory as to how to achieve it, and on the other hand, that the theory is somewhat crude, likely will be revised in the course of the effort, and that success is far from assured. This article presents a theory of how trial and error learning interacts with theory modification in the course of problem solving under bounded rationality. The empirical focus is on efforts to advance a technology, especially medical practice, but the analysis is quite general. A central question explored is what makes progress in a field hard or easy.

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