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Heuristics and biases in a purported counterexample to the acyclicity of "better than"

Voorhoeve, Alex (2007) Heuristics and biases in a purported counterexample to the acyclicity of "better than". LSE Choice Group working paper series, vol. 3, no. 2. The Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS), London, UK.

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Stuart Rachels and Larry Temkin have offered a purported counterexample to the acyclicity of the relationship “all things considered better than”. This example invokes our intuitive preferences over pairs of alternatives involving a single person’s painful experiences of varying intensity and duration. These preferences, Rachels and Temkin claim, are confidently held, entirely reasonable, and cyclical. They conclude that we should drop acyclicity as a requirement of rationality. I argue that, together with the findings of recent research on the way people evaluate episodes of pain, the use of a heuristic known as similarity-based decision-making explains why our intuitive preferences may violate acyclicity in this example. I argue that this explanation should lead us to regard these preferences with suspicion, because it indicates that they may be the result of one or more biases. I conclude that Rachels’ and Temkin’s example does not provide sufficient grounds for rejecting acyclicity.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2007 Alex Voorhoeve
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Sets: Research centres and groups > LSE Choice Group
Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Identification Number: vol. 3, no. 2
Date Deposited: 01 May 2009 14:03

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