Description: I am willing to bet that you think of yourself as a reasonable, rational, thoughtful person and that you do feel that you get emotionally caught up in situations and circumstances in ways that might negatively impact your ability to make rational decisions. It IS true that people (adults in particular) CAN be quite rational, but an important question involves whether we are always really being rational when we think we are thinking rationally. It turns out that there are quite a few things we do consistently that reflect biases or non-rational thought processes that we usually do not realize we are doing. SO, think about what possible biases or non-rational thought processes you might use and about what you might do to use less of them so that your rational thoughts are, we1l, more rational. Once you have done a little bit of self-review read the article linked below in which a psychologist with interests in the evolution of human thinking points out a few VERY common biases or non-rational thinking approaches. Knowing what they involve is the first step to doing less of them.
Source: Three ways to be more rational this year, Prof Steven Pinker, Harvard university, BBC News.
Date: January 1, 2022
Article Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-59740588
So, does it make sense that we tend to shortchange our future selves, see patterns and causality (that we bet money or time on) in random events and that we work harder to win arguments that to actually work at understanding what is right in particular situations and circumstances? While the ability to think rationally emerges as our cognitive abilities develop, we need to become aware of aspects of our thought processes that work against being rational and we then need to develop ways to limit their tendency to derail our rationality. A lot to think about, difficult, but very important in the long run and we owe it to our future selves to work on it diligently.
Questions for Discussion:
- Can you think rationally??
- Can you provide an example from your own experience e where your attempts at rational thought were derailed in each of the ways discussed in the linked article?
- Can you identify one or two things you can do, or try to do, regularly to avoid having your rational thought processes derailed (and just saying I will try hard not to is insufficient)?
References (Read Further):
Think with Pinker, Professor Pinker’s guide to thinking better, BBC Sounds. Link
Pinker, S. (2021). Rationality: What it is, why it seems scarce, why it matters. Allen Lane. Book
Stanovich, K. E., West, R. F., & Toplak, M. E. (2013). Myside bias, rational thinking, and intelligence. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(4), 259-264. Link
Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. J. (2010). A framework for critical thinking, rational thinking, and intelligence. Link
Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2008). On the relative independence of thinking biases and cognitive ability. Journal of personality and social psychology, 94(4), 672. Link