Rationalist vs. Behavioralist Paradigms

Topics: Utility, Scientific method, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Pages: 6 (2006 words) Published: February 22, 2012
What are the two business paradigms?
Within the business disciplines, we are fortunate to have two major paradigms (schools of thought): rationalist and behavioralist. An ideological/theoretical conflict has existed between the two paradigms for over 50 years. Is human decision behavior more consistent with the rationalist models or behavioralist models? Behavioral finance has grown out of this conflict and will likely result in the resolution of the conflict as time passes.

What is a paradigm?
Thomas Kuhn's concept of paradigm is useful background for the debate between rationalists and behavioralists over decision making. His book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is the premier philosophy of science work written during the 20th century. In it, he argues that science is not an inexorable truth machine that grinds out knowledge an inch at a time. Instead science progresses via leaps (termed scientific revolutions) separated by periods of calm (termed normal science). An important basic concept in Kuhn's work is his concept of paradigm-a term he originated but which has expanded to have many more meanings today. A scientific community consists of practitioners of a scientific specialty (e.g., physicists, chemists, psychologists, economists). According to Kuhn, a paradigm is what members of a scientific community share, and, conversely, a scientific community consists of people who share a paradigm. It includes a set of assumptions (many of which are unarticulated) and definitions. Paradigms gain status when they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has come to recognize as acute. One of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions. To a great extent these are the only problems that the community will as admit as scientific or encourage its members to undertake. Other problems, including many that had previously been standard, are rejected as metaphysical, as the concern of another discipline, or sometimes as just too problematic to be worth the time. Few people who are not practitioners of a mature science realize how much mop up work remains after a paradigm shift occurs. Mopping up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what Kuhn calls normal science. Normal science is defined as research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some scientific community acknowledges as supplying the foundation for its further practice. Normal science seems to progress very rapidly because its practitioners concentrate on problems that only their own lack of ingenuity should keep them from solving. When engaged in normal science, the research worker is a solver of puzzles, not a tester of paradigms. However, through the course of puzzle solving, anomalies sometimes develop which cannot be explained within the current paradigm. Paradigm testing occurs when persistent failure to solve a noteworthy puzzle gives rise to a crisis and when the crisis has produced an alternate candidate for a paradigm. Paradigm testing never consists, as puzzle solving does, simply in the comparison of a single paradigm with nature. Instead, testing occurs as part of the competition between two rival paradigms for the allegiance of the scientific community. The choice between two competing paradigms regularly raises questions that cannot be resolved by the criteria of normal science. To the extent, as significant as it is incomplete, that two scientific schools disagree about what is a problem and what a solution, they will inevitably talk through one another when debating the relative merits of their respective paradigms. In the partially circular arguments that regularly result, each paradigm will be shown to satisfy...
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