Dr. Gordon Pennycook
University of Regina

Why Reason Matters

Many of the problems that we face as a species emerge from failures of our own decision-making. However, a major impediment to developing meaningful solutions to this overarching problem is that there is substantial disagreement in psychology about the primary and characteristic sources of reasoning errors. Prominent theories espouse that deliberative reasoning is infirm in the face of salient intuitions and, when used, may actually exacerbate partisan bias via motivated reasoning. In this talk, I challenge these ideas and provide evidence that errors typically stem rather from a mere failure to sufficiently engage analytic thinking. Indeed, individual differences in analytic thinking are consequential for a wide variety of beliefs and behaviors, including moral judgments, religious/ paranormal/ conspiratorial/ pseudoscientific beliefs, and susceptibility to misinformation and pseudo-profound bullshit. Furthermore, the spread of misinformation can be slowed by simple prompts that trigger people to reflect on accuracy. Thus, reports of the death of reason has been greatly exaggerated and there are ways to improve our decision-making, so long as we accurately characterize what leads to errors in the first place.