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Seminar 3


What, if any, objection to decision theory would arise from the truth of Dickinson’s dual-process theory of instrumental action?


You only need one of the new sources:

  • Hargreaves-Heap & Varoufakis (2004, p. Chapter 1) provides a very accessible overview of key objections to assumptions of decision theory. (Their stated concern is game theory; but game theory is built on decision theory, and most of the objections they cover are objections to the underlying decision theory.)

  • Sugden (1991, p. §§I--IV) is an excellent but very difficult discussion; try this if you have already encountered decision theory on another course.

  • Steele & Stefánsson (2020) provides an overview of decision theory as presented by Jeffrey’s and a discussion of some challenges (in §5).

This seminar’s question also requires reading set for previous seminars:


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Lecture Notes

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decision theory : I use ‘decision theory’ for the theory elaborated by Jeffrey (1983). Variants are variously called ‘expected utility theory’ (Hargreaves-Heap & Varoufakis, 2004), ‘revealed preference theory’ (Sen, 1973) and ‘the theory of rational choice’ (Sugden, 1991). As the differences between variants are not important for our purposes, the term can be used for any of core formal parts of the standard approaches based on Ramsey (1931) and Savage (1972).
dual-process theory of instrumental action : Instrumental action ‘is controlled by two dissociable processes: a goal-directed and an habitual process’ (Dickinson, 2016, p. 177). (See instrumental action.)


Dickinson, A. (2016). Instrumental conditioning revisited: Updating dual-process theory. In J. B. Trobalon & V. D. Chamizo (Eds.), Associative learning and cognition (Vol. 51, pp. 177–195). Edicions Universitat Barcelona.
Hargreaves-Heap, S., & Varoufakis, Y. (2004). Game theory: A critical introduction. London: Routledge. Retrieved from
Jeffrey, R. C. (1983). The logic of decision, second edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ramsey, F. (1931). Truth and probability. In R. Braithwaite (Ed.), The foundations of mathematics and other logical essays. London: Routledge.
Savage, L. J. (1972). The foundations of statistics (2nd rev. ed). New York: Dover Publications.
Sen, A. (1973). Behaviour and the Concept of Preference. Economica, 40(159), 241–259.
Steele, K., & Stefánsson, H. O. (2020). Decision Theory. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.
Sugden, R. (1991). Rational Choice: A Survey of Contributions from Economics and Philosophy. The Economic Journal, 101(407), 751–785.