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Beware Your Irrational Reasoning

Why are we good at reasoning in some cases and hopelessly biased in others? Did reasoning evolve just to help us win arguments? Argumentative Theory says yes.

What’s the Latest Development?

Argumentative Theory has generated much excitement in the academic community from heated rejection to enthusiastic acceptation. Cognitive scientist Dan Sperber and his former student Hugo Mercier are seen by some thought leaders as shining light on “a puzzle that has bedeviled researchers in cognitive psychology and social cognition for a long time,” why “humans are so amazingly bad at reasoning in some contexts, and so amazingly good in others.”

What’s the Big Idea?

It’s important to remember our reasoning blind spot. This latest thinking suggests that while we can find flaws in each other’s reasoning, we can’t do it so easily for our own reasoning. Which is another reason to listen to the input of others. What if we knew that reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth but designed by evolution to help us win arguments? “The evidence…shows not only that reasoning falls quite short of reliably delivering rational beliefs and rational decisions. It may even be, in a variety of cases, detrimental to rationality.”


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