Eye on Ethics: Pushing the Ethics Envelope: The Role of 'Satisficing'

Frederic G. Reamer, Rhode Island College


Satisficing is a decision-making strategy discussed in economics that aims for a satisfactory or adequate result, rather than the ideal or optimal solution. This is because in some circumstances, aiming for the optimal solution may not be feasible or even possible. Simon argued that rational choice is not always possible and that, at times, “psychological realism” is necessary. This is especially so in the face of what Simon calls “bounded rationality,” that is, situations where people have limited information and options and a finite amount of time in which to make a decision. Simon introduced the concept of satisficing primarily for application to the field of economics. However, the concept seems equally applicable to instances when social workers must make extraordinarily difficult ethical decisions with limited information, options, and time. In these circumstances, when social workers feel the push of the proverbial envelope, ethics-informed satisficing would seem to be the order of the day.