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Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty (Evolution and Cognition Series)

Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope with Uncertainty (Evolution and Cognition Series) [Kindle Edition]

Gerd Gigerenzer
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Product Description


This book should be read bu all scientists interested in understanding human behaviour on decision making, or in knowing the limites of human inference under uncertainty in order to provide statistical information in an understandable manner. (Marta Posada, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation)


"Gerd Gigerenzer has created new, pathbreaking ways of thinking about human rationality. His ideas build on one another and are best seen as part of a coherent whole that is when the nature of his arguments emerges most clearly."-- Leda Cosmides, University of California Santa Barbara

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1440 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (4 April 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052XUFTQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #160,930 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new paradigm in the study of rationality 22 Feb 2012
By DigiTAL
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has its roots in two earlier fields that sought to discover whether or how humans make "rational" decisions.

The first field can loosely be called unbounded rationality, and it has a long history, dating back to classical thinkers like Daniel Bernoulli, but made its greatest achievements in the mid-20th century, with such ideas as expected utility theory and Bayesian decision theory. In this view, individuals have stable and well-ordered preferences. When choosing between different options, either in situations of certainty, risk (known probabilities), or uncertainty (unknown probabilities), people could specify the parameters of a decision and then grind through the necessary computations to reach their rational and preferred option. These models were not always presented as literal models of how people actually make decisions, but "as-if" models of what goes on in the black box inside the brain.

Unbounded rationality, when taken as a literal model of how the world works, lead to frequently absurd predictions. In macroeconomics, the field of Real Business Cycle theory asserts that the long-term unemployed in a deep recession are just rationally choosing to consume more leisure than accept a lower market-clearing wage. Other anomolies included the Allais and Ellsberg paradoxes.

The heuristics and biases programme came as a response to the excesses of unbounded rationality. The idea is that instead of fully solving many of the difficult decisions we face, we take mental shortcuts -- heuristics -- which can lead to biases in decision-making. It lead to many well-documented effects; the "Linda the feminist bank teller" problem is one of the most famous.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful, well written, readable, enjoyable--and very probably true 8 Dec 2011
By Epictetus (Hong Kong) - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this author's _Reckoning with Risk_ some time ago and found it worthwhile. This is an even better book, despite being an earlier one (2000) than that (2003).

Like evolution, probability is a slippery, subtle subject and some of its main principles and their ramifications can be hard to grasp, even for intelligent people. This book is one of the best out there for explaining some of the fundamental concepts in uncertainty and probability. Gigerenzer uses some striking historical examples to do this. One of these is about John Arbuthnot (1710) who used the concept that we now call the null hypothesis to prove the existence of God. Gigerenzer observes that "Arbuthnot's test illuminates the possibilities and limitations of a null hypothesis.... Divine providence always wins if the null hypothesis loses."

As well as explaining some key concepts such as the null hypothesis, this books shows them in action, as in the Chapter 9 "Understanding Risks in Healthcare."

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve or check their understanding of some of the fundamental concepts and also gaps in our current understanding of uncertainty and probability.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and Accessible 20 April 2013
By Colin E Rumbley - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having read much of Gigerenzer as well as Kahneman's work, I can say that this volume would make a great introduction for someone interested in heuristics. A very accessible presentation of these ideas. Of course, if you are new to statistics, there are some technical sections that may spark further investigation. Heuristics is an academic enterprise, not a casual philosophical idea. Complete comprehension the first time through should not be the expectation - what I think is at the root of some of the criticisms here. If you find this frustrating reading, try slogging through the academic papers on which the chapters are based!

Rationality for Mortals combines plain english sections with more technical supporting sections. I like this approach for the same reason I like Antonio Damasio's popular books on the brain. Some of the jargon is over my head, but the rest is readable and inspiring enough to welcome the challenge.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love to see this book in Audio/Audible format ... 19 Aug 2013
By BruceK - Published on
Why is there always a button for requesting a Kindle version of books, but not one for an Audio version of books?

I got the authors "Gut Feelings" which I thought was great in audiobook format, and would like to read this in audiobook format too - consider this as a request I could not submit any other way.
2 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Phew. 27 Jun 2011
By Debra M. Ridley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have read this text from cover to cover and must say that it is no easy read despite the fact that I studied this subject quite exstensively
I think part of the problem is that the author is rather too argumentitive, which results in certain areas of the book appearing over complicated.
1 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too fast and too frustrating 22 Feb 2012
By Soren Wenstop - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
Reading this (as far as my increasing sense of annoyance permitted) was not an experience worth sharing. The author is mudling through with remarkably little analytical clarity.
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Popular Highlights

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A true theory of bounded rationality does not cling to optimization theories, neither as descriptions nor as norms of behavior. &quote;
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In unbounded rationality, the three O’s reign: optimization (such as maximization) replaces determinism, whereas the assumptions of omniscience and omnipotence are maintained. &quote;
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Because of their lack of psychological realism, theories that assume unbounded rationality are often called as-if theories. &quote;
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