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Human Nature in Politics: The Dialogue of Psychology with Political Science

Herbert Simon

American Political Science Review, 1985, vol. 79, issue 2, 293-304

Abstract: This article compares two theories of human rationality that have found application in political science: procedural, bounded rationality from contemporary cognitive psychology, and global, substantive rationality from economics. Using examples drawn from the recent literature of political science, it examines the relative roles played by the rationality principle and by auxiliary assumptions (e.g., assumptions about the content of actors' goals) in explaining human behavior in political contexts, and concludes that the model predictions rest primarily on the auxiliary assumptions rather than deriving from the rationality principle.The analysis implies that the principle of rationality, unless accompanied by extensive empirical research to identify the correct auxiliary assumptions, has little power to make valid predictions about political phenomena.

Date: 1985
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