Cognitive Miser

What Is Cognitive Miser?

Psychologists considered the human mind to be a cognitive miser due to people’s tendency to think and solve problems in simpler and less effortful ways rather than in more sophisticated and more effortful ways, regardless of intelligence (Wikipedia Opens in new window).

The hypothesis that perceivers usually rely on simple rules to make judgments and engage in careful, thoughtful processing only when necessary has been called the cognitive miser model of information processing (Fiske and Taylor, 1984).

The Cognitive miser model is a view of information processing that assumes the human mind is rather limited in time, knowledge, attention, and cognitive resources. Thus, people usually do not think rationally, but use cognitive shortcuts to make inferences and form judgments and only engage in careful, thoughtful processing when necessary.

These shortcuts include the use of heuristics Opens in new window, schemas Opens in new window, stereotypes Opens in new window, and other simplified perceptual strategies instead of careful thinking. For example, people tend to make correspondent reasoning and are likely to believe that behaviors should be correlated to or representative of stable characteristics.

Fiske and Taylor (1984) used the term “cognitive miser” to refer to broad tendencies to resist new ideas, to minimize effortful thought, and to avoid revising one’s beliefs. This perspective assumes that detailed, deliberate processing is costly or expensive in terms of psychological resources, and our resource capacity is limited. Therefore, we try to “spend” as little as possible in most cases—we are misers who try to protect our resources for important judgments. Heuristics are one way that we save resources.