Unfortunately, in an era blessed with unprecedented resources for reasoning, the public sphere is infested with fake news, quack cures, conspiracy theories, and “post-truth” rhetoric.
- The cognitive wherewithal to understand the world and bend it to our advantage is the patrimony of our species.
- For example, the San of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa owes their survival to a scientific mindset. During a drought, they think ahead to what would happen if they killed the last plant or animal of its kind, and they spare members of the threatened species.
- Rationality is a kit of cognitive tools that can attain particular goals in particular worlds.
- When people’s judgments deviate from a normative model, it sometimes reveals a genuine irrationality: The human brain cannot cope with the complexity of a problem, or it is saddled with a bug that cussedly drives it to the wrong answer time and again.
- But in many cases:
- A problem may have been presented to them in a deceptive format, and when it is translated into a mind-friendlier guise, they ace it.
- The normative model may itself be correct only in a particular environment.
- The model may be designed to bring about a certain goal, however, people are after a different one.
- Though explanations of irrationality may absolve people of the charge of outright stupidity, to understand is not to forgive.