Models of ecological rationality: the recognition heuristic

Psychol Rev. 2002 Jan;109(1):75-90. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.109.1.75.


One view of heuristics is that they are imperfect versions of optimal statistical procedures considered too complicated for ordinary minds to carry out. In contrast, the authors consider heuristics to be adaptive strategies that evolved in tandem with fundamental psychological mechanisms. The recognition heuristic, arguably the most frugal of all heuristics, makes inferences from patterns of missing knowledge. This heuristic exploits a fundamental adaptation of many organisms: the vast, sensitive, and reliable capacity for recognition. The authors specify the conditions under which the recognition heuristic is successful and when it leads to the counterintuitive less-is-more effect in which less knowledge is better than more for making accurate inferences.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Recognition, Psychology*