Rationality and Reasoning

By Jonathon St. B.T. Evans, David E. Over

© 1996 – Psychology Press

192 pages

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New in Paperback: 9780863774386
pub: 1999-06-17
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About the Book

This book addresses an apparent paradox in the psychology of thinking. On the one hand, human beings are a highly successful species. On the other, intelligent adults are known to exhibit numerous errors and biases in laboratory studies of reasoning and decision making. There has been much debate among both philosophers and psychologists about the implications of such studies for human rationality. The authors argue that this debate is marked by a confusion between two distinct notions: (a) personal rationality (rationality1

Evans and Over argue that people have a high degree of rationality1 but only a limited capacity for rationality2. The book re-interprets the psychological literature on reasoning and decision making, showing that many normative errors, by abstract standards, reflect the operation of processes that would normally help to achieve ordinary goals. Topics discussed include relevance effects in reasoning and decision making, the influence of prior beliefs on thinking, and the argument that apparently non-logical reasoning can reflect efficient decision making. The authors also discuss the problem of deductive competence - whether people have it, and what mechanism can account for it.

As the book progresses, increasing emphasis is given to the authors' dual process theory of thinking, in which a distinction between tacit and explicit cognitive systems is developed. It is argued that much of human capacity for rationality1 is invested in tacit cognitive processes, which reflect both innate mechanisms and biologically constrained learning. However, the authors go on to argue that human beings also possess an explicit thinking system, which underlies their unique - if limited - capacity to be rational.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements. Rationality in Reasoning. Personal Goals, Utility, and Probability. Relevance, Rationality, and Tacit Processing. Reasoning as Decision Making: The Case of the Selection Task. Prior Belief. Deductive Competence. A Dual Process Theory of Thinking.

About the Series

Essays in Cognitive Psychology

Essays in Cognitive Psychology is designed to meet the need for rapid publication of brief volumes in cognitive psychology.

Primary topics include perception, movement and action, attention, memory, mental representation, language and problem solving.

Furthermore, the series seeks to define cognitive psychology in its broadest sense, encompassing all topics either informed by, or informing, the study of mental processes. As such, it covers a wide range of subjects including computational approaches to cognition, cognitive neuroscience, social cognition, and cognitive development, as well as areas more traditionally defined as cognitive psychology.

Each volume in the series makes a conceptual contribution to the topic by reviewing and synthesizing the existing research literature, by advancing theory in the area, or by some combination of these missions.

The principal aim is that authors provide an overview of their own highly successful research program in an area.

Volumes also include an assessment of current knowledge and identification of possible future trends in research.

Each book is a self-contained unit supplying the advanced reader with a well-structured review of the work described and evaluated.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology