Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ezra Klein explains our politics

Study: Humans think in order to score debater’s points

“ ‘Reasoning doesn’t have this function of helping us to get better beliefs and make better decisions,’ said Hugo Mercier, who is a co-author of the journal article, with Dan Sperber. ‘It was a purely social phenomenon. It evolved to help us convince others and to be careful when others try to convince us.’ Truth and accuracy were beside the point.”

If you follow politics and don’t find this result completely obvious, you’re not paying close enough attention. See also this post. Or this column.

What this says is that the process of thinking is actually nothing more than an internal rehearsal of what a person expects to say, combined with a prediction of what the response of the person he will say it to is likely to be. That makes it all conscious. The key point to remember is that actually making decisions is an unconscious process that takes place prior to the conscious rehearsal.

The original NY Times article is here.

The researchers who posted the results Ezra was quoting have provided a clarification of what they reported here.

The issue of The Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences devoted its entire April issue to debates over the argumentative theory of reasoning.

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