Herbert Simon

    Herbert Simon, a student of political science, public administration, and economics. He was born in 1916, was heavily influenced by the behavioral revolution in political science under Charles Merriam at the University of Chicago in the 1930s (Simon, 1996), and went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978.
    His major works include
    Administrative Behavior (1946),
    Models of Man (1957),
    Organizations (coauthored with James March, 1958), and
    The Sciences of the Artificial (1969).
    Because he worked at Carnegie-Mellon University, his work and those of colleagues and disciples sometimes goes under the label of "the Carnegie school." Among the major thrusts of his analysis were these:

    1. Public administration as normative science. Simon believed that public administrators were not should not be and could not be policy-neutral (a direct challenge to Wilsonian thinking), though their commitments to policy should be tempered by strong professional standards.
    2. Administrative man, not economic man. Simon rejected the classic economic assumptions of managers as economic maximizers making optimal decisions based on acquiring full information. Instead, he believed "administrative man" was more descriptive: managers are "satisficers" who seek the first satisfactory solution, based on limited information ("bounded rationality"). Although Simon's work was a challenge to purely rational models of decision-making, ultimately his view was rationalistic, believing administrative decisions could be interpreted in terms of nested hierarchical structures in which decision-makers decomposed large problems into a series of smaller ones and routinized their solution through limited search strategies. Simon's neo-rational theory was later challenged by other theorists who believed public-sector decisions had to be described with more emphasis on political and non-rational processes.
    3. Information costs. Where classical economics assumed unlimited free information available for decision-making, Simon understood all information has costs. "What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. "
    4. Bounded rationality: pattern matching to develop solutions in problem space. Another corollary of the rejection of "economic man" and decision-making by optimization based on total search of all possible information, was Simon's understanding that in reality decision-makers define "problem spaces" onto which limited information may be "mapped." Mapping, in turn, centers on matching patterns, not indiscriminantly adding atomic fragments of data. As patterns are matched, information is mapped in "chunks" to the problem space until satisficing can occur. People remember and process data in chunks, averaging five pieces of data per chunk, not in sequential threads involving a large number of pieces. Satisficing is a form of chunk-based, non-structured search, which may be contrasted with systematic optimization/maximization (as Jones, 2003, does). Simon's 1955 paper on bounded rationality was a basis for his receiving the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978. Simon's later writings on artificial intelligence build on this theme.
    5. Mathematical models may be constructed to describe human behavior. This was the theme of Models of Man (1957). Decision-making centers on efficiency as a norm for evaluating alternatives. This requires measurement of results. Measurement requires clear conceptual definition of desired outputs. Simon's earlier 1938 work with Clarence Ridley was a milestone in the measurement of municipal indicators.
    6. Organizations as value systems. Simon emphasized the role of the manager in articulating organizational goals, in part through encouragement of cooperative behavior (cf. Barnard).
    7. Cognitive psychology was the focus of Simon's later work, focusing on the use of the computer to simulate human thinking. In philosophy of science, Simon was especially interested in how theoretical (non-observable) terms arise in scientific theories and how they can be handled in axiomatization.


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