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That’s the Word for It: Satisfice


I first heard this term at a BYOB Party recently. Satisficing is a decision-making strategy or cognitive heuristic, a portmanteau of the words satisfy and suffice. It was introduced by Herbert A. Simon, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, to explain the behavior of decision-makers when an optimal solution could not be determined. Satisficing describes something that meets the minimum requirements of a goal, performing something at a satisfactory level rather than at the maximum level possible.

Besides being used in business terminology, satisficing means to pursue the minimum satisfactory condition or outcome.

Here are some places where the word has shown up:

Satisficing is one of the foundations of productive human behavior; it prevails when we don’t waste time on decisions that don’t matter, or more accurately, when we don’t waste time trying to find improvements that are not going to make a significant difference in our happiness or satisfaction.”
― Daniel J. Levitin, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

“In reality, though, most of the time we don’t choose the best option—we choose the first reasonable option, a strategy known as satisficing.”
― Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

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