Indice degli argomenti

  • Logic and decision making - Prof. Raffaele Mascella - a.a. 2018/2019

    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.


    Lessons will be held In the 1st semester, on the following days/hours:
    • Tuesday, 10:30 am - room 9
    • Wednesday, 3:30 pm - room 9
    • Thursday, 8:30 am - room 9


    Peterson M. (2009), An Introduction to Decision Theory, 1st ed., Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. All, except par. 2.4, 3.6, 4.7.

    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

    25/09/2018: Entry test. Course introduction (Lessons, Exams, Projects, Objectives).

    26/09: Basic Logic and Mathematics. 

    27/09: Basic Mathematics and Probability. 

    02/10: Introduction to Decision Theory. 

    03/10: Decisions under ignorance. 

    04/10: Decisions under risk. Paradoxes. 

    09/10: Utility. Elicitation and Lotteries. 

    10/10, 3.30-6.30 pm: Decisions in baseball. Movie session.

    11/10: Exercises. 

    17/10: Mathematics and Philosophy of Probability.

    23/10 DEADLINE 1.1, before the lesson: Proposal submission (have a look at the "Assignments" section).

    23/10: Bayes theorem, the value of information. 

    24/10: The rationality of utility, Bayesianism. Causal vs. Evidential decision theory. 

    25/10: Exercises and Topics Review. 

    30/10 - EXAM: Midterm exam (unit 1).  

    03/11 - DEADLINE 1.2Online submission (have a look at the "Assignments" section).

    06/11 - DEADLINE 1.3Class Presentation (have a look at the "Assignments" section).

    Study materials:

    • Peterson, chap 1-10, except par. 2.4, 3.6, 4.7, 4.8.
    • Bazerman, chap 1 (only par. 1-3, pp. 1-6).
    • Notes on Basic Logic; Notes on Utility; Notes on Bayes and New Information.
    • Training exercises and questions.

  • Unit 2

    Lessons. From November 6th until November 15th.


    Introduction to Game theory. The prisoner dilemma. Mixed strategies. The battle of sexes, the Chicken Game and other classical games. Evolution and Ethics.

    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

    Lessons. From November 20th until November 28th.


    Common Biases and Heuristics. Bounded Awareness. Framing and the Reversal of Preferences. Prospect Theory. Improving Decision Making. Heuristics examples. Documentaries.

    04/12: Final Written Exam (Unit 2 and 3)

    Study materials: 

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

  • 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.