Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in BETTER THAN CONSCIOUS? DECISION MAKING, THE HUMAN MIND, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR INSTITUTIONS, ed. Christoph Engel and Wolf Singer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008), pp. 285-304. Copyright 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology & the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies. Used by permission.


Evolutionary and psychological approaches to decision making remain largely separate endeavors. Each offers necessary techniques and perspectives which, when integrated, will aid the study of decision making in both humans and nonhuman animals. The evolutionary focus on selection pressures highlights the goals of decisions and the conditions under which different selection processes likely influence decision making. An evolutionary view also suggests that fully rational decision processes do not likely exist in nature. The psychological view proposes that cognition is hierarchically built on lower- level processes. Evolutionary approaches to decision making have not considered the cognitive building blocks necessary to implement decision strategies, thereby making most evolutionary models of behavior psychologically implausible. The synthesis of evolutionary and psychological constraints will generate more plausible models of decision making.