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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Human Reason: Capricious Rationalizing

April 10, 2011, 8:57 AM

What's the Big Idea?

How capricious are we? Are the political and social ideals we defend at length subject to quick reversals from a mere suggestion? What we consider true and just may have little to do with our capacity for rational thought. Rather, our environment may form the ground on which our supposedly objective conclusions rest, and when circumstances in our lives change, so too might the opinions we have been holding onto so tightly. Broadly speaking, people tend toward a conservative politics as they acquire more money, for example.

What's the Most Recent Development?

A forthcoming study in the journal Psychological Science demonstrates how simply being in a different frame of mind may affect our predilection toward a wide spectrum of political and social ideas. When subjects were asked to watch a video of a man making mundane choices in his apartment—What to do? What to eat?—they were more likely to emphasize the importance of responsible decision making in life, favoring policies like legalizing marijuana while expressing skepticism of affirmative action and government regulation of pollution.


Human Reason: Capricious Ra...

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