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Preface

The development of scientific disciplines has all the properties of man-made artificial systems. Although one would expect that scientific evidence is the main driver of the survival and perseverance of theories and models, academic networks are institutionalised in terms of journals, conferences and other means of dissemination. Quality tends to be peer-reviewed, but the process is subjective or inter-subjective at best. Like in any social system, highly respected scholars serve as sources of inspiration, but at the same time tend to be the gatekeepers of the historical development of the discipline and acceptance standards. For very good reasons, new approaches are typically critically assessed under much or too much scrutiny, implying they may not receive the attention they deserve. There are signs of self-selection as chances of acceptance may decrease if one deviates too much from the state of the art. Incremental contributions tend to be applauded; divergent views need more convincing.

Although the transport community is known for its balance between accumulative research within long-standing modelling approaches, supported and sustained by continuous training and dissemination practices, and constructive openness to new ideas, some fundamental foundations of transport research were largely left unchallenged or were never put on the agenda for decades. The notion of equilibrium and the principle of rational choice behaviour have been the cornerstones of the disciplines for the last 40 years. Without any doubt, these concepts have played a pivotal role in the development of the models that have become commonly used in transportation planning practice. In turn, accepted practice cannot be disentangled from these basic principles.

At the same time, however, the principle of fully rational behaviour lacks behavioural realism. Nevertheless, compared to other disciplines, attempts to explore the possibilities of formulating alternative models of activity-travel behaviour, derived from principles of bounded rationality, have been limited in number in the travel behaviour community. In part, this may be because transportation is primarily an applied engineering science, and as such less concerned with more fundamental explanations of observed behaviour. However, the very nature of the decisionmaking processes underlying activity-travel behaviour, characterised by a relatively stable of antecedent conditions and instrumental in kind, may not need a more subtle and varied set of behavioural principles and mechanisms.

In any case, although models of bounded rationality have been around in travel behaviour research since its inception, they never have played a central role in this research community. This book, based on a special session organised at the Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting and subsequent invited chapters, represents an attempt to put the spotlight on promising models of bounded rationality. There are several reasons why these models should be put on the centre stage. First, we have the feeling that conventional theories and discrete choice models, based on principles of fully rational behaviour have entered the last stage of their lifecycle. They have fully matured and there is little evidence of much further progress. Second, the application of models of transport demand forecasting has gradually shifted from long-term investment in infrastructure policy decisions to shortterm transport management decisions. It implies a refocusing of modelling approaches on concepts such as uncertainty, adaptation and inertia, which do not particularly lend themselves the basic premises of classic economic theories. Third, choice behaviour itself is changing in the sense that increasingly more transport- related choices have become instantaneous choices made under time pressure. It changes the very nature of the underlying decision-making process and may necessitate different modelling frameworks. Fourth, the still rapidly increasing computer power and availability of varied, real time data sets in principle no longer limits to the specification and conceptual richness of models.

This incentive to focus attention to models of bounded rationality does not reflect any claim that such models are necessarily better than conventional utility- maximising models. Our position is that the relevance of any model depends on the processes that it is supposed to represent and how much value is attached to face and construct validity versus its predictive performance. Ultimately, the transportation and travel behaviour community is served when systematic model comparisons are made and debate challenges the limitations of any particular model as opposed to uncritically cherishing its merits. The challenge is to develop models of bounded rationality with equal rigour and if that turns out impossible to discuss the implications for underlying methodological issues. We trust that this book contains sufficient food for thought and will contribute to additional future work on making models of bounded rationality full competitors of our currently dominant models.

Soora Rasouli and Harry Timmermans

Eindhoven, August 2014

 
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