Situational Normativism: A descriptive-normative approach to decision making and policy sciences
With the objective of improving policy making, efforts have recently intensified to integrate behavioral sciences, cost-effectiveness analysis, and related disciplines into an evolving field that has been termed "policy sciences." After reviewing some aspects of policy sciences, the paper discusses an approach, called situational normativism, by which the components of policy sciences may be put to work effectively on real decision problems. The approach is situational in that each problem must be approached individually, but the methodology can be viewed as a general heuristic. Thus, situational normativism involves a synthesis of descriptive (behavioral) and normative approaches. One begins with a descriptive model of a real world decision situation in terms of the participants, their values (objectives, goals) and the decision rules that determine existing outcomes. Then, the analysis becomes normative (and may use mathematical optimizing techniques) in the sense of generating prescriptive alternatives for attaining in a preferred way these same values or a more fundamental set identified during the analysis. The iterative process, including adaptive system redesign, involves a search for a set of means-ends (goals, constraints) relationships within which a search for prescriptive solutions may be undertaken. Change, implementation, and political feasibility are viewed as constraints to be satisfied. Thus, situational normativism provides a framework for the combined use of behavioral knowledge and costeffectiveness techniques for improved policy making. © 1976 Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company.
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