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This term was originally coined by Herbert A. Simon. Satisficing is "setting an acceptable level or aspiration level as final criterion and simply taking the first acceptable move" (Newell and Simon, 1972, p. 681). This topic is based in administrative theory, which is "peculiarly the theory of intended and bounded rationality- of the behavior of human beings who satisfice because they have not the wits to maximize" (Simon, 1976, p.xxviii).

As Seen in Reference

Satisficing is important human operation that needs further research in the Information Studies field because it can assist researchers and librarians in understanding the user's information seeking practices. "Satisficing behaviors result in early termination of information search processes when individuals, facing incomplete information, are sufficiently satisfied to assume risks and execute decisions" (Stefl-Mabry, 2003, p. 879). Librarians would be better able to assist users if they knew when and why the inquirer decided the information they now possessed was enough. Reference librarians could prepare a list of the best places to get certain types of information, as sort of a 'game plan', that would help ensure quality results. Agosto (2002) suggests that given the sheer number of volumes and amount of material held in libraries and other information sources an inquirer will have to suffice, but her study reports that the first sufficing option does not dictate a stopping point - outside elements also factor into the user's terminating the search. This is an idea that demands further research. What factors encourage users to say 'that is good enough'? Does this happen with everyone performing any sort of search or task? Satisficing behavior is not limited to web surfing, or academic research. The term is used in many other areas of study.


As Seen in Other Fields

Artificial Intelligence

In this field the term is represented using signs and symbols in a formula. The satisficing paradigm calls for the definition of two utility functions: the selectability function and the rejectability function (Beard, Young, & Stirling, 2001, p.163). The selectability and rejectability functions are vital decision-making elements for Artifical Intelligence. Beard et al.,(2001) explain selectability as big for desirable control values and rejectability as big for the control values that are too costly to put into practice. Building on this knowledge satisficing can be placed in another equation. Satisficing set is the "set of all point-wise control values where instantaneous benefits of applying that action outweigh the instantaneous costs" (Beard et al., 2001, p.163).


For Economics, the term satisfice is primarily used when discussing product and fiscal maintenance. "Firms satisfice with respect to decision rules. That is, if existing rules are functioning well, the firm is unlikely to change them; if not search for better rules will be stimulated" (Winter, 1971, p.245). Here the definition is used to explain how and when new products and processes are implemented.


The topic is positioned in relation to the term maximizing in this arena. "Indeed satisficing is a screening stategy that could satisfy a goal similar to that of a maximizer" (Desmeules 2002, p. 3). However, because maximizer is described as high standards related to high expectations and the term satisficing is used to describe a settled for option the two terms are often positioned against each other (Desmeules, 2002). In this context satisficing is seen as the lesser of the two options, but it still wields product and purchase.


Common Element

Despite the various interpretations of this topic, the underlying element from Simon is the same. Satisficing remains based a decision making behavior.

Related Links

User Satisfaction

Behavioral Models

Information Seeking Behavior



Agosto, D.E., (2002). Bounded rationality and satisficing in young people's web-based decision making. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 16-27.

Beard, R.W.,Young, B., Stirling, W.C. (2001). Nonlinear regulation using the satisficing paradigm. Proceedings of the American Control Conference, USA, 6, 162-167.

Desmeules, R. (2002). The impact of variety on consumer happiness: marketing and the tyranny of freedom. Academy of Marketing Science Review, No. 12. Retrieved November 21, 2006 from

Newell, A. & Simon, H.A. (1972). Human problem solving. New Jersey:Prentice-Hall Inc.

Simon, H.A. (1976). Administrative behavior. a study of decision-making processes in administrative organization.(3rd edition). New York: The Free Press.

Stefl-Mabry, J. (2003). A social judgement analysis of information source preference profiles: an exploratory study to empirically represent media selection patterns. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 54, 879-904.

Winter, S.G. (1971). Satisficing, selection, and the innovating Electronic Version. Quarterly Journal of Economics,85, 237-261.


Kirby O.McCurtis