Moral Satisficing: Rethinking Moral Behavior as Bounded Rationality


should be sent to Gerd Gigerenzer, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Lentzeallee 94, 14195 Berlin, Germany. E-mail:


What is the nature of moral behavior? According to the study of bounded rationality, it results not from character traits or rational deliberation alone, but from the interplay between mind and environment. In this view, moral behavior is based on pragmatic social heuristics rather than moral rules or maximization principles. These social heuristics are not good or bad per se, but solely in relation to the environments in which they are used. This has methodological implications for the study of morality: Behavior needs to be studied in social groups as well as in isolation, in natural environments as well as in labs. It also has implications for moral policy: Only by accepting the fact that behavior is a function of both mind and environmental structures can realistic prescriptive means of achieving moral goals be developed.