Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 499–514 | Cite as

The Social Origins of Folk Epistemology

  • Hugo MercierEmail author


Because reasoning allows us to justify our beliefs and evaluate these justifications it is central to folk epistemology. Following Sperber, and contrary to classical views, it will be argued that reasoning evolved not to complement individual cognition but as an argumentative device. This hypothesis is more consistent with the prevalence of the confirmation and disconfirmation biases. It will be suggested that these biases render the individual use of reasoning hazardous, but that when reasoning is used in its natural, argumentative, context they can represent a smart way to divide labor without loosing epistemic value.


Confirmation Bias Bank Teller Evolutionary Story Condorcet Jury Theorem Representativeness Heuristic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Dan Sperber’s work and his support have been instrumental in the writing of this article. I also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers and an editor for their comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy, Politics and Economics ProgramUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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