models of rationality — between gnats, rats and gods

Categorizing is dangerous: one might mislabel, forget, over-generalize and simplify or just be plain wrong.  Nonetheless, Nicolai and I have put together a table, with simplified categories, for an upcoming Academy of Management presentation on models of rationality that show up in (or rather, are implied by) extant strategy and organizational theories. (The table might be more applicable for the strategy setting.  For example,  I am not quite sure where the “institutional agent” would really fit in, though it has some overlaps with the boundedly rational model.)

Well, the table is crude, somewhat redundant, it needs revising, but nonetheless it’s a rough first cut at things for the presentation. (In the presentation, we’ll build on some insights from Popper’s ambitious essay “Of Clouds and Clocks: An Approach to the Problem of Rationality and the Freedom of Man.”)

Also, it’s ironic that scholarly conceptions of human rationality are often different from scholars’ conceptions of themselves.  Thus, we should perhaps add an über alles “scholar agent” to the mix as well.

Written by teppo

July 25, 2008 at 7:00 pm

6 Responses

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  1. It’s often the case with typologies like this that, whereas the first through the penultimate column in the table describes a list of features of particular, well-worked-out models and theories, the final column in the table — representing the preferred view of the authors — in effect describes a list of desiderata for a yet-to-be fully worked-out model or theory. There’s often a sense that these final columns have their cake and eat it, too: neither too x nor too y; the best features of a and b; both α-ish and γ-ish. Am I being unfair here?



    July 25, 2008 at 8:17 pm

  2. Kieran: You’re absolutely right — was going to include that in the post (the labeling alone: rats, gnats, etc) — should perhaps have masked my intentions a bit by shuffling the columns. And, also, the point is not to advocate one over others — well, hmm, not necessarily — as different models clearly may also be pragmatically utilized depending on the task at hand.



    July 25, 2008 at 8:23 pm

  3. […] psychology and other quarters, why is the basic model of economics still the rational actor? Have economists systematically shown it to be superior the other competitors? If so, where can I read about […]


  4. […] agents are abundant and dominant in many fields, economics especially. Teppo at orgtheory had a recent post that nicely summarized various models of rational agent (although the model “gnat” might more reasonably fit into a natural model here). Agents […]


  5. […] with a whole style of social science built around ambiguity, bounded rationality, routines, etc. Teppo wrote a post about all kinds of different theories of choices that aren’t neo-classical economics. A serious challenge to neo-classical could be built by […]


  6. […] of economistic models of human nature. Such models are varied (see, for example, Teppo’s four-fold division), and recent advances in behavioral economics have started to take more seriously some of […]


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