jump to navigation

“Satisficing” in 2020!- Choose the Best Available Option. February 25, 2020

Posted by Chris Mark in Politics, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Herbert Simon

As  we are well into this 2020 political cycle I thought it prudent to reference an important political (and decision making) concept.  In his seminal 1947 work Administrative Behavior the esteemed Political Scientist, Economist and Nobel Prize Laureate Herbert Simon referenced a concept he called Satisficing.  The concept was formally put forth in 1965.  So what exactly is Satisficing?  First it is a portmanteau which combines “satisfy” and “success”.   According to Wikipedia Satisficing is: Satisficing is a decision-making strategy or cognitive heuristic that entails searching through the available alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met.” The term satisficing,  is a combination of satisfy and suffice.”

We all Satisfice every day.  Consider the last car you bought.  No doubt you had a perfect car in mind.  Particular color, particular model, etc.  When you get to the showroom however, you are presented with options that are not 100% what you are looking for but those on the lot have the important aspect that are critical for your decision making.  You also realize that you can negotiate for a lower price with a car on the lot then you can when you order a custom car.  You likely purchased a car off the lot and did not order a car.  This is a perfect example of Satisficing in action.  We all have particular points that are critical to our decision process.  Some people are steadfast that they will only buy and American automobile.  All other aspects are negotiable.  Some people will only drive a Mercedes in black or white.  These anchor points are important.

So what does Satisficing have to do with politics? I am glad you asked!  Consider any political candidate.  Likely most readers look at the candidates and begin prioritizing.  In some cases the choice an be reduced to the “best of the worst options”.  My personal opinion is that the 2020 presidential cycle falls into this category..but I digress.  There is likely not a single candidate that fulfills every requirement of a particular voter.  Each candidate likely has some aspect that is more and less attractive to a particular voter and the voter then has to make a decision based upon their priority of characteristics.

Have you ever wondered why politicians become fixated upon various political topics such as: 2nd Amendment Rights?  Abortion rights?  Immigration?Taxes? The rational is simple and effective.  Politicians are leveraging the heuristic biases of Satisficing.  Politicians understand that most voters will dig in their heels on a particular position.

Some people may say: “I agree with a woman’s right to choose but I am unwilling to give up my right to won a gun.”  This person has made a rational choice to prioritize on his/her 2nd Amendment Rights over the right to choose.  Other voters (like me) may be steadfast on not raising taxes.  Still others may  be willing to sacrifice all other criteria for a stance on immigration.  By highlighting these hot topics, Politicians are able to rally support for their cause even if all of their other positions do not resonate with voters.

As we approach this year’s elections, remember that your choice may not be your ideal choice but the best of the available options.  You can thank Herbert Simon for giving it a name.  Satisficing!


1. Why I am still voting for Trump…and you should, as well. | Global Security, Privacy, & Risk Management - October 10, 2016

[…] why am I still voting for Trump?  Easy.  It is all about what economist and Nobel Prize recipient Herbert Simon called Satisficing.  In this election we only have 2 real choices.  Granted I feel like the options are akin to […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: