Richard. Samuels and Stephen. Stich

in The Oxford Handbook of Rationality

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145397
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199752393 | DOI:

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Samuels and Stich explore the debate over the extent to which ordinary human reasoning and decision making is rational. One prominent cluster of views, often associated with the heuristics and biases tradition in psychology, maintains that human reasoning is, in important respects, normatively problematic or irrational. Samuels and Stich start by sketching some key experimental findings from this tradition and describe a range of pessimistic claims about the rationality of ordinary people that these and related findings are sometimes taken to support. Such pessimistic interpretations of the experimental findings have not gone unchallenged however: Samuels and Stich outline some of the research on reasoning that has been done by evolutionary psychologists and sketch a cluster of more optimistic theses about ordinary reasoning that such psychologists defend. Although Samuels and Stich think that the most dire pronouncements made by writers in the heuristics and biases tradition are unwarranted, they also maintain that the situation is rather more pessimistic than sometimes suggested by evolutionary psychologists. They conclude by defending this “middle way” and sketch a family of “dual processing” theories of reasoning which, they argue, offer some support for the moderate interpretation they advocate.

Keywords: bias; dual processing; evolution; experiment; heuristic; optimism; ordinary reasoning; normativity; pessimism; psychology

Chapter.  9029 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Mind

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