Rationality and Psychology

Richard Samuels and Stephen P. Stich

in The Oxford Handbook of Rationality

Published in print February 2004 | ISBN: 9780195145397
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:
Rationality and Psychology


This article explores the debate over the extent to which ordinary human reasoning and decision making is rational. It starts by detailing some key experimental findings from the heuristics and biases tradition and describes 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, and one of the most sustained and influential critiques come from evolutionary psychology. This article outlines some of the research on reasoning that has been done by evolutionary psychologists and describes a cluster of more optimistic theses about ordinary reasoning that such psychologists defend. Although this article states that the most dire pronouncements made by writers in the heuristics and biases tradition are unwarranted, it also maintains that the situation is rather more pessimistic than sometimes suggested by evolutionary psychologists.

Keywords: human reasoning; decision making; heuristics; biases tradition; rationality

Article.  8707 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Mind

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