ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 54 ›› Issue (11): 1293-1309.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2022.01293

• Theory and History of Psychology •     Next Articles

The essence of bounded rationality and debate over its value

LIU Yongfang()   

  1. Shanghai Key Laboratory of Mental Health and Psychological Crisis Intervention, School of Psychology and Cognitive Science, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China
  • Published:2022-11-25 Online:2022-09-08
  • Contact: LIU Yongfang


Bounded rationality is not the optimization under constraints, not to mention the irrationality. In essence, it is an objective description of the level of human rational evolution and development so far, that is, human beings are rational either in the attitude to reality or in the ability to recognize and transform reality. However, limits to human rationality are observed. Bounded rationalists question popular rationalism in contemporary social science and the reliability of the methodology and knowledge system derived from it, but they do not question rationality itself. They eliminate the dualism thinking mode of rationalism or irrationalism in history, which provides us with a new perspective to understand the nature of rationality from the resource-based, quantitative, and dynamic developmental views. Bounded rationality is defective in the sense of value rationality, but reasonable in the sense of instrumental rationality. Therefore, it is necessary to find a proper equilibrium point between them. The concept of bounded rationality in psychology and its extensive influence have led to another human rational revolution after the “probability revolution” of the Renaissance. It is one of the most important contributions made by this discipline to the treasure house of human thought and knowledge. It not only has far-reaching historical significance but also has interdisciplinary methodological significance.

Key words: bounded rationality, heuristics, satisficing, normative model, descriptive model