Advertisement

Synthese

pp 1–20 | Cite as

Cognitive bias, situationism, and virtue reliabilism

  • Steven BlandEmail author
Article

Abstract

Mark Alfano claims that the heuristics and biases literature supports inferential cognitive situationism, i.e., the view that most of our inferential beliefs are arrived at and retained by means of unreliable heuristics rather than intellectual virtues. If true, this would present virtue reliabilists with an unpleasant choice: they can either accept inferential skepticism, or modify or abandon reliabilism. Alfano thinks that the latter course of action is most plausible, and several reliabilists seem to agree. I argue that this is not the case. If situationism is true, then inferential non-skepticism is no more plausible than reliabilism. But inferential cognitive situationism is false. The heuristic-based inferences that facilitate successful perception and communication have proven remarkably accurate, and even the psychological research on inductive reasoning does not support Alfano’s situationism. More generally, negative assessments of human reasoning tend to ignore the fact that the research on cognitive biases focuses primarily on the performance of individuals in isolation. Several studies suggest that we reason much more effectively when in critical dialogue with others, which highlights the fact that our epistemic performance depends not only on the inner workings of our cognitive processes, but on the environments in which they operate.

Keywords

Cognitive bias Virtue epistemology Skepticism Epistemic situationism 

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to an audience at the University of Glasgow for their discussion of an earlier version of this paper. I owe a special note of thanks to Jon Marsh and two of this journal’s referees for their insightful, detailed, and constructive comments.

References

  1. Alfano, M. (2012). Extending the situationist challenge to responsibilist virtue epistemology. Philosophical Quarterly, 62(247), 223–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alfano, M. (2014). Extending the situationist challenge to reliabilism about inference. In A. Fairweather (Ed.), Virtue epistemology naturalized (pp. 103–122). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alfano, M. (2017). Epistemic situationism: An extended prolepsis. In A. Fairweather & M. Alfano (Eds.), Epistemic situationism (pp. 44–61). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Baron, R. S., Hoppe, S. I., Kao, C. F., Brunsman, B., Linneweh, B., & Rogers, D. (1996). Social corroboration and opinion extremity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 32, 537–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bishop, M., & Trout, J. D. (2002). 50 Years of successful predictive modeling should be enough: lessons for philosophy of science. Philosophy of Science: PSA 2000 Symposium Papers 69, 69, 197–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carroll, J., Winer, R., Coates, D., Galegher, J., & Alibrio, J. (1988). Evaluation, diagnosis, and prediction in parole decision-making. Law and Society Review, 17, 199–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carter, J. A., & Pritchard, D. (2017). Cognitive bias, scepticism and understanding. In S. R. Grimm, C. Baumberger, & S. Ammon (Eds.), Explaining understanding: New perspectives from epistemology and philosophy of science (pp. 272–292). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Davidson, D. (1986). A coherence theory of truth and knowledge. In E. LePore (Ed.), Truth and interpretation: Perspectives on the philosophy of Donald Davidson (pp. 307–319). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  9. Fairweather, A., & Montemayor, C. (2017). Knowledge, dexterity, and attention: A theory of epistemic agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fischhoff, B. (1982). Debiasing. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, & A. Tversky (Eds.), Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 422–444). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gigerenzer, G. (2000). Adaptive thinking: Rationality in the real world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gigerenzer, G. (2007). Gut feelings: The intelligence of the unconscious. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  13. Gigerenzer, G., & Hoffrage, U. (1995). How to improve Bayesian reasoning without instruction: Frequency formats. Psychological Review, 102, 684–704.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gould, S. J. (1992). Bully for brontosaurus: Further reflections in natural history. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  15. Hertwig, R., & Gigerenzer, G. (1999). The “conjunction fallacy” revisited: How intelligent inferences look like reasoning error. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 12, 275–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoffrage, U. (2004). Overconfidence. In R. Pohl (Ed.), Cognitive illusions: A handbook on fallacies and biases in thinking, judgment and memory (pp. 235–254). Hove: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking fast and slow. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  18. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1973). On the psychology of prediction. Psycholoigcal Review, 80, 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kenyon, T., & Beaulac, G. (2014). Critical thinking education and debiasing. Informal Logic, 34(4), 341–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lee, Y., Jussim, L. J., & McCauley, C. R. (1995). Stereotype accuracy: Toward appreciating group differences. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lehman, D. R., Lempert, R. O., & Nisbett, R. (1988). The effects of graduate training on reasoning: Formal discipline and thinking about everyday-life events. American Psychologist, 43(6), 431–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Meehl, P. (1954). Clinical versus statistical prediction: A theoretical analysis and a review of the evidence. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2011). Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(2), 57–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mercier, H., & Sperber, D. (2017). The enigma of reason. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Morton, A. (2012). Bounded thinking: Intellectual virtues for limited agents. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nickerson, R. S. (1998). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomena in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 2, 175–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nisbett, R., Fong, G. T., Lehman, D. R., & Cheng, P. W. (1987). Teaching reasoning. Science, 238(4827), 625–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nisbett, R., Krantz, D. H., Jepson, C., & Kunda, Z. (2002). The use of statistical heuristics in everyday inductive reasoning. In T. Gilovich, D. W. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment (pp. 510–533). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. O’Brien, B. (2009). Prime suspect: An examination of factors that aggravate and counteract confirmation bias in criminal investigations. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 15(4), 315–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pinker, S. (1997). How the mind works. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  31. Pronin, E., Lin, D., & Ross, L. (2002). The bias blind spot: Perceptions of bias in self versus others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 369–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Saul, J. (2013). Scepticism and implicit bias. Disputatio, 5(37), 243–263.Google Scholar
  33. Sedikides, C., & Gregg, A. P. (2007). They why’s the limit: Curtailing self-enhancement with explanatory introspection. Journal of Personality, 75, 783–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Siegel, S. (2017). The rationality of perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Smart, P. R. (2018). Mandevillian intelligence. Synthese, 195, 4169–4200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sosa, E. (2017). Virtue theory against situationism. In A. Fairweather & M. Alfano (Eds.), Epistemic situationism (pp. 116–134). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Stasser, G., & Titus, W. (2003). Hidden profiles: A brief history. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 204–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tetlock, P. (2005). Expert political judgment. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Tetlock, P., & Gardner, D. (2015). Superforecasting: The art and science of prediction. Toronto: Signal.Google Scholar
  40. Turri, J. (2017). Epistemic situationism and cognitive ability. In A. Fairweather & M. Alfano (Eds.), Epistemic situationism (pp. 158–167). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability. Cognitive Psychology, 5, 207–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (2002). Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. In T. Gilovich, D. W. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment (pp. 19–48). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wilson, T. D., Centerbar, D. B., & Brekke, N. (2002). Mental contamination and the debiasing problem. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment (pp. 185–200). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyHuron University CollegeLondonCanada

Personalised recommendations