Think back on the decision-making process that you and your team members went through in deciding the case of “State vs. Scroggs.” Do you feel any of you used a rational decision-making model? As you explain, you might recall that rational decision-making goes through six steps:
- Define the problem. (Did Scroggs do it or not?)
- Identify decision criteria, etc.
- Weight the criteria.
- Generate alternatives.
- Rate each alternative on each criterion.
- Compute the optimal decision.
If no one followed this rational decision-making model exactly, did anyone follow even one of the steps – or some half way? As you explain, you might consider that you could have been using what we call bounded rationality? (That’s where you satisfice – that is, you don’t follow such a rigorous model, but rather you seek solutions that are merely satisfactory.) In bounded rationality, you use some rationality, but you are not completely disciplined about it.
Case Study: State vs. Scroggs
In the fall of 1875, Hiram Smith filed a claim on a very fertile piece of land in South Dakota with the land office. Before he could make any improvements on the land, he died. A young Swede, newly immigrated, filed a counterclaim to the land at once, and by late spring of the following year, he had built a home and had begun to cultivate the land.
In the meantime the widow of the original claimant was on her way West with her two daughters and her son, Hiram, Jr. She built a house on the land, across a ravine from the Swede’s home, and cultivated that half of the claim. Both parties sent their claims to the Department of the Interior, but ten years went by without a decision. Both the Swede and Mrs. Smith built barns and cultivated the land intensively each on their own side of the ravine.
A distant relative of Mrs. Smith, a clergyman named Rev. Wilbur Scroggs, lived in a small town about two miles from the rival farms. He had been an advisor for the Swede on all matters of religion and politics since the fellow had first taken up farming in Dakota.
He had often complimented the Swede on his land and had expressed his opinion at the general store that it was the best land in the West.
Wilbur Scroggs had acted as arbiter for the disputants and had corresponded with the Secretary of the Interior in regard to the land. One day at the general store he told the Swede that he thought the Swede’s claim would be supported. The Swede swore that no one was going to put him off the land.
The next day Scroggs went to the Smith farm and showed Mrs. Smith a paper from Washington , D.C. , ratifying her claim to the land. He said it would be all right for them to take possession of the entire claim. Young Hiram Smith, Jr. hitched a team to the plow and went over on to the Swede’s side of the farm. Scroggs, Mrs. Smith, and the two daughters went along, with Scroggs on his horse. Young Hiram, Jr. had just started plowing when the Swede ran out of his house with a gun and shot him.
Two more shots killed the horses at the plow. Scroggs galloped off and shouted that he was going after the marshal. When the marshal and a posse arrived, they found the Swede had killed the three women and had then committed suicide. Rev. Scroggs, being the only relative of the dead woman, would stand to inherit both pieces of land.