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Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making$
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Peter Hammerstein and Jeffrey R. Stevens

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780262018081

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262018081.001.0001

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Error Management

Error Management

(p.69) 5 Error Management
Evolution and the Mechanisms of Decision Making

Daniel Nettle

The MIT Press

This chapter briefly introduces error management theory, an evolutionary framework for understanding how natural selection should be expected to shape decision-making mechanisms. Selection minimizes not the overall rate of error in decision making, but rather the expected fitness burden of error. This means that where the fitness impact of errors is asymmetric (e.g., when failing to run from a predator that is present is more costly than running from a predator which is not in fact there), evolution will favor mechanisms that choose the cheap error much more often than the costly one. This principle can be applied to decision making in many different domains. This chapter discusses the relationships between error management theory and expected utility theory, and the extent to which error management theory can be invoked to explain the prevalence of biased beliefs.

Keywords:   Strüngmann Forum Reports, decision making, cognitive biases, behavioral biases, error management theory, expected utility theory, modeling biological fitness

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