Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

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.

Download (271kB) | Preview


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
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
Date Deposited: 01 May 2009 14:03
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:42

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics