Explaining versus describing human decisions: Hilbert space structures in decision theory

  • Sandro SozzoEmail author


Despite the impressive success of quantum structures to model long-standing human judgement and decision puzzles, the quantum cognition research programme still faces challenges about its explanatory power. Indeed, quantum models introduce new parameters, which may fit empirical data without necessarily explaining them. Also, one wonders whether more general non-classical structures are better equipped to model cognitive phenomena. In this paper, we provide a realistic–operational foundation of decision processes using a known decision-making puzzle, the Ellsberg paradox, as a case study. Then, we elaborate a novel representation of the Ellsberg decision situation applying standard quantum correspondence rules which map realistic–operational entities into quantum mathematical terms. This result opens the way towards an independent, foundational, rather than phenomenological, motivation for a general use of quantum Hilbert space structures in human cognition.


Quantum structures Cognitive science Decision theory Ellsberg paradox Operational realism 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author has no conflict of interest to declare.


This work was supported by QUARTZ (Quantum Information Access and Retrieval Theory), the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network 721321 of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Ethical statement

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business and IQSCSUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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