James Grayot

My research deals with philosophical problems that lie at the intersection of economics, cognitive science, and philosophical psychology.
James Grayot
EIPE Ph.D. Student

Theories of cognition in frameworks of rational choice

My research deals with philosophical problems that lie at the intersection of economics (viz. decision theory and game theory), cognitive science, and philosophical psychology.

Title PhD thesis: Agency, cognition, and rational choice: philosophy at the crossroads of economics and cognitive science

Paper 1: "The quasi-economic agency of human selves" (Grayot 2017)

It is believed that individual persons are complex aggregations of "selves". These selves arise in response to external pressures to regulate individual behaviors and therefore enable the tracking of public norms and conventions. In this paper, I investigate the different roles that selves play in Don Ross' philosophy of economics and I identify separate projects that arise therein. To this end, I distinguish different roles for selves: these are evolutionary, narrative, and economic. I argue that these roles contribute to two distinct, but overlapping, projects. My aim is to show that there is a tension underlying these projects, but that it’s not clear where these tensions arise precisely because of how selves are multiply understood and used to defend these projects. I will argue that, while it is not problematic to conceive of selves according to their different roles, we should not presume that the functions or properties of selves in one role can serve the same purposes for both projects.

Paper 2: "From selves to systems: on the intrapersonal and intraneural dynamics of decision making" (forthcoming)

New trends in behavioral decision research see researchers attempting to integrate multiple-self models of behavioral economics with dual-process and dual-system theories of cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Psychologically sophisticated multi-agent models have grown in popularity given their purported ability to predict and explain reasoning errors and decision anomalies. In this paper, I analyze how multi-agent models conceive of and employ “selves” and “systems” for the purposes of representing intrapersonal and intraneural conflict. The paper is structured according to three claims. The first and second claims establish that multi-agent models are conceptually as well as ontologically ambiguous. The third claim argues that such ambiguities can lead to problems in scientific understanding.

Paper 3: "Two problems for the mentalism-behaviorism dichotomy in economics" (under review)

This paper evaluates the relevance of the mentalism-behaviorism dichotomy in light of recent debates in the philosophy and methodology of economics and decision research. I argue that there are two problems with current interpretations of the dichotomy: First, it is uncertain what, exactly, the dichotomy pertains to—researchers may have different motivations for endorsing mentalism and/or for opposing behaviorism. Second, it is uncertain how the dichotomy informs, or is informed by, empirical research in economics. In response to the first problem, I qualify and compare arguments which appeal to the choice-theoretic foundations of economics and distinguish them from arguments which appeal to scientific practice in economics. In response to the second problem, I argue that the dichotomy does not advance or improve scientific practice in contemporary decision research because neither mentalism nor behaviorism are equipped to analyze nonchoice data and resolve explanatory problems. This interpretation confirms why the dichotomy is ill-suited to many empirical purposes. 

Paper 4: "Why behavioral economics needs to revise its faith in dual-process theories" (in progress)

The trajectory of research in the domain of human decision-making sees dual process theory playing a prominent role in both the cognitive and behavioral sciences. While the theory has been carefully-examined and routinely debated in the cognitive sciences since its inception, the same cannot be said of it in the behavioral sciences, despite its widespread influence. In particular, behavioral economists have come to depend on dual process theory, or salient aspects of it, to improve the predictive and explanatory power of economic models. Some behavioral economists even claim that it produces psychologically realistic economic models. However, dual process theory faces several problems and it seems that revisions are necessary. This leaves behavioral economists with a dilemma: either they stick to their (purported) ambition to give a realistic description of human decision-making and judgment and give up on dual process theory, or they stick to dual process theory and give up—or modify—their ambition. 


Supervisors: Dr. Conrad Heilmann and prof. Jack Vromen

Background: BA Philosophy, Humboldt State University, USA
                      MA Philosophy, San Jose State University, USA
                      Research Master Philosophy & Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EIPE), Netherlands