Indice degli argomenti

  • Logic and decision making - Prof. Raffaele Mascella - a.a. 2017/2018

    Raffaele Mascella is Associate Professor in Logic and Philosophy of Science and Vice Dean in the Faculty of Communication Sciences. He graduated in Mathematics at the University of L'Aquila, and received his Ph.D. in Epistemology and Didactic of Mathematics from the University of Teramo. After being a High School teacher, he became Lecturer in Computer Science and has been Coordinating various Masters and Postgraduate Courses. He is a member of the British Society for the Philosophy of science. Among his research interests are information and coding theory, the philosophy of mathematics, of computer science and of complex systems, fuzzy logic and its application to computational intelligence. Among his published books: Teoria e Strutture dell’Informazione (2008); La Società e i Fondamenti dell’Informatica (2006); Viaggio intorno all’Evoluzione (2008).


    The course provides an introduction to decision making, both normative and descriptive. Among the primary purposes, the course is intended to provide a set of basic tools that help the student to solve decision problems through quantitative models and translate qualitative uncertainty into numbers. A substantial amount of the course deals with normative decision theory, i.e. the study of how to make rational decisions, but the last part deals also with descriptive decision making, i.e. the study of how actually humans make decisions. Examples are used heavily.  

    The course is divided in 3 units (Individual Decision Theory; Game theory and Social Decision Theory; Descriptive Decision Theory) and worths 6 CFU, which means that an average student is expected to require 150 hours of work to complete and pass the course.


    • Knowledge and understanding: Know and understand the most common decision analysis techniques for rational decision making, with and without uncertainty and risk, for individuals and groups; furthermore, know and understand main heuristics and fallacies in decision-making.
    • Applying knowledge and understanding: Ability to analyze and solve decision problems under certainty, uncertainty and risk, with one or more attributes; ability to think strategically in competitive scenarios.
    • Making judgements: Increase critical thinking skills, autonomy in reasoning, and in problem solving decisions.
    • Communication: Ability to communicate clearly rational elements and empirical aspects that characterize decisions, either to an expert or to a non-expert audience.
    • Learning skills: Ability to learn further strategies, theories and models of decision making.

    • Prerequisite: No philosophical prerequisites are required. No mathematical prerequisites are necessary beyond high school algebra and arithmetic. It is required only some familiarity with basic inferences in propositional logic. The first week is devoted to a review of the mathematical and logical knowledge necessary to successfully follow the course.
    • Preparatory: None.


    • Tuesday hour 10:30 - room 9
    • Wednesday hour 10:30 - room 9
    • Thursday hour 10:30 - room 9


    Peterson M. (2009), An Introduction to Decision Theory, 1st ed., Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. All, except chapter 9.

    Bazerman M.H., Moore D.A. (2009), Judgment in Managerial Decision Making (7th ed.), John Wiley & Sons: New York. Only chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 (only the first paragraph) and 11.

    Bang D, Frith C.D. (2017), Making better decisions in groups, Royal Society Open Science, v. 4: 170-193. (download at


    • Notes on Basic Logic; Notes on Utility; Notes on Bayes and New Information.


    T. H. Davenport (2009), "Make Better Decisions", Harvard Business Review (follow this link).

    HBR Analytic Services, "The Evolution of Decision Making: How Leading Organizations Are Adopting a Data-Driven Culture", Harvard Business Review (follow this link).

    D. Ariely (2008), Predictably Irrational, Harper Collins: New York.


    A midterm ad a final written exam are planned: the first at the end of Unit 1, the second at the end of Unit 3. 


    Two project assignments are scheduled. Each student, individually, must work on two projects and present them in class. 


    The course is graded on the basis of project assignments and written exams. The student is expected to have knowledge of, insight in, and, most importantly, understanding of the different course subjects. This also means that the student have practiced with applying different methods and procedures and can correctly do so in little time. Active participation is also taken into account.

    During the Course semester office hours are: Thursday, from 1.30 to 3.30 pm. Before assignment deadlines office hours are extended (search for details in the Syllabus and in the Schedule).

    At the end of the semester office hours are: Thursday, from 1.30 to 3.30 pm, or by appointment. Please, send me an email to arrange a time.


    Students not attending at least 80% of the lessons are considered "non-attending students" for this course. 


    The examination of non-attending students consists of: 

    • a compulsory written exam covering the entire course's material (theory and exercises)
    • an analysis of a multi-criteria decision problem, to be handed in and presented the same day
    • an oral exam concerning the entire course's material and the project presented. 

  • Unit 1 (Feb. 27/2 update)

    Tue 13/02/2018: Entry test. Course introduction (Lessons, Exams, Projects, Objectives). Preparational topics.

    Wed 14/02: Basic Logic and Mathematics. 

    Thu 15/02: Basic Mathematics and Probability. 

    Wed 21/02 

    Fri 23/02 (8.30-12.30): Introduction to Decision Theory. Decisions under uncertainty. 

    Tue 27/02 

    Wed 28/02: Decisions under risk. Paradoxes. 

    Wed 28/02 (1.30-4.30): Movie Session. “Moneyball. The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”.

    Thu 01/03: Utility. Elicitation and Lotteries. 

    Thu 01/03 (1.30-3.30): Multi-attribute utility theory. 

    Tue 6/03: Mathematics and Philosophy of Probability. Bayes theorem.

    Wed 7/03: Bayes theorem, the value of information.

    Thu 08/03:  The rationality of utility, Bayesianism. Causal vs. Evidential decision theory. Before 3.30 pm the Project Proposal for Assignment 1 is due. 

    Tue 13/03: Exercises and Topics Review.  

    Before the Midterm test there are some deadlines for Assignment 1: have a look in the "Assignments" section. 

    Thu 27/03: Midterm exam (unit 1).

    Study materials:

    • Peterson, chap 1-8 and 10.
    • Bazerman, chap 1 (only par. 1-3, pp. 1-6).
    • Notes on Basic Logic; Notes on Utility; Notes on Bayes and New Information. 

  • Assignments

    Before 8/03, 3:30 pm: 1st Assignment Proposal. 

    Before 18/03, 11.55 pm1st Assignment online submission (into "First Assignment Submission").

    Before 21/03, 10:30 am: Hand in 2 printed copies of 1st Assignment project.

    21/03 (course hours): Presentation in class of 1st Assignment project.

    Before 4/04, 10:30 am: Submit 2 Peer evaluation + Self Evaluation of 1st Assignment Project.

    Before 29/04, 11.55 pm: 2nd Assignment online submission (into "Second Assignment Submission").

    2/05 (course hours): Presentation in class of 2nd Assignment project.

  • Unit 2

    Wed 28/03: Introduction to Game theory. The prisoner dilemma.

    Thu 29/03: Mixed strategies. The battle of sexes.

    Tue 4/04: The Bargaining problem. Evolution and Ethics. Before 10.30 am the Peer&Self Review for Assignment 1 is due.

    Thu 5/04: Social choice theory. Decisions involving groups of individuals.

    The test for this Unit will be held together with the test for Unit 3.

    Study Materials:

    • Peterson, chap 11, 12, 13.
    • article by D. Bang and C.D. Frith.

  • Unit 3

    Tue 10/04: Common Biases and Heuristics.

    Wed 11/04: Common Biases and Heuristics. 

    Wed 11/04 (1.30-3.30, room 16): Documentaries.

    Thu 12/04: Bounded Awareness. Framing and the Reversal of Preferences.

    Wed 18/04: Prospect Theory. Improving Decision Making.

    Tue 24/04: Final Written Exam (Unit 2 and 3)

    Before the final assessment there are some deadlines for Assignment 2: have a look at the "Assignments" section. 

    Wed 9/05: Final Assessment.

    Study materials: 

    • Peterson, chap 14; 
    • Bazerman, chap 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 11.

  • Multimedia contents

    H. Simon: why decision making is so difficult?

    H. Simon: what is bounded rationality? 

    Movie "Moneyball. The Art of Winning an Unfair Game". Here is a little excerpt.