Advertisement

Biological Theory

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 309–317 | Cite as

Evolution, Rationality, and Coherence Criteria

  • Andrea Polonioli
Long Article
  • 199 Downloads

Abstract

How much irrationality should we ascribe to human cognition? Psychological evidence suggests that people’s reasoning is largely inaccurate, but according to an evolutionary argument for rationality (henceforth, EAR), we have good reasons to believe that this is not so. To solve the conflict between psychological evidence and EAR, commentators have usually put the blame either on the psychological evidence, arguing that inaccurate reasoning appears only in the context of lab studies, or on the premises of EAR, charged with not being in line with the concepts and findings of evolutionary biology. I argue that Hammond’s distinction between two distinct criteria of rationality, namely coherence and correspondence, might shed new light on this apparent conflict. I show that EAR might be interpreted in two different ways, and that EAR and psychological evidence might in fact be both correct if they appeal to different criteria of accurate reasoning. Moreover, evolutionary considerations have been recently used not to oppose the existence of violations of norms of coherence but rather to explain it.

Keywords

Cognitive biases Evolution Rationality 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am particularly grateful to Werner Callebaut, editor of this journal, an anonymous referee for this journal, Michela Massimi, Till Vierkant, Lars Penke, and Matteo Colombo for their constructive and helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. This research was partly funded by a Studentship awarded by the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences (PPLS) of the University of Edinburgh. The usual disclaimers about any error or mistake in the paper apply.

References

  1. Alicke MD (1985) Global self-evaluation as determined by the desirability and controllability of trait adjectives. J Pers Soc Psychol 49:1621–1630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arkes H, Gigerenzer G, Hertwig R (forthcoming) Why coherence cannot be a universal criterion of rationality: an evolutionary perspective (ms)Google Scholar
  3. Binmore K (1999) Why experiment in economics? Econ J 109:16–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borges B, Goldstein D, Ortmann A, Gigerenzer G (1999) Can ignorance beat the stock market? In: Gigerenzer G, Todd P, ABC Research Group (eds) Simple heuristics that make us smart. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 59–72Google Scholar
  5. Buller D (2005) Adapting minds. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Burns B (2004) Heuristics as beliefs and as behaviors: the adaptiveness of the “hot hand.” Cogn Psychol 48:295–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Byrne S, Whiten A (eds) (1988) Machiavellian intelligence. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  8. Carruthers P (2006) The architecture of the mind. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chase V, Hertwig R, Gigerenzer G (1998) Visions of rationality. Trends Cogn Sci 2:206–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen LJ (1981) Can human rationality be experimentally demonstrated? Behav Brain Sci 4:317–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cooper W (1989) How evolutionary biology challenges the classical theory of rational choice. Biol Philos 4:457–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dennett D (1987) The intentional stance. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  13. Fodor J (1981) Representations. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  14. Garcia J, McGowan BK, Green KF (1972) Biological constraints on conditioning. In: Black AH, Prokasy WF (eds) Classical conditioning II: current research and theory. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, pp 3–27Google Scholar
  15. Gigerenzer G (1996) On narrow norms and vague heuristics: a reply to Kahneman and Tversky. Psychol Rev 103(3):592–596Google Scholar
  16. Gigerenzer G (2000) Adaptive thinking: rationality in the real world. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Gigerenzer G, Goldstein DG (1996) Reasoning the fast and frugal way: models of bounded rationality. Psychol Rev 103:650–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gigerenzer G, Todd PM, ABC Research Group (1999) Simple heuristics that make us smart. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  19. Gilboa I (2010) Rational choice. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  20. Gilboa I, Postlewaite A, Schmeidler D (2012) Rationality of belief or: why savage’s axioms are neither necessary nor sufficient for rationality. Synthese 187:11–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hammond KR (1996) Human judgment and social policy. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Hammond KR (2007) Beyond rationality. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  23. Haselton MG, Buss DM (2000) Error management theory: a new perspective on biases in cross-sex mind reading. J Pers Soc Psychol 78:81–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haselton M, Bryant GA, Wilke A et al (2009) Adaptive rationality: an evolutionary perspective on cognitive bias. Soc Cogn 27:732–762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hastie R, Dawes R (2001) Rational choice in an uncertain world: the psychology of judgment and decision making. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  26. Hazlett A (2013) A luxury of the understanding: on the value of true belief. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hertwig R, Gigerenzer G (1999) The conjunction fallacy revisited: how intelligent inferences look like reasoning errors. J Behav Decis Mak 12:275–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Houston AI, McNamara JM, Steer MD (2007a) Violations of transitivity under fitness maximization. Biol Lett 3:365–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Houston AI, McNamara JM, Steer MD (2007b) Do we expect natural selection to produce rational behavior? Philos Trans R Soc B 362:1531–1543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kahneman D, Tversky A (1996) On the reality of cognitive illusions. Psychol Rev 103:582–591CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Katsikopoulos K (2009) Coherence and correspondence in engineering design: informing the conversation and connecting with judgment and decision-making research. Judgm Decis Mak 4:147–153Google Scholar
  32. Laland K (2001) Imitation, social learning, and preparedness as mechanisms of bounded rationality. In: Gigerenzer G, Selten R (eds) Bounded rationality: the adaptive toolbox. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 233–248Google Scholar
  33. Maynard Smith J, Burian R, Kauffman S et al (1985) Developmental constraints and evolution. Q Rev Biol 60:265–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. McKay R, Dennett D (2009) The evolution of misbelief. Behav Brain Sci 32:493–561CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Rysiew P (2008) Rationality disputes—psychology and epistemology. Philos Compass 3:1153–1176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sage W (2004) Truth-reliability and the evolution of human cognitive faculties. Philos Stud 117:95–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Samuels R, Stich S, Bishop M (2002) Ending the rationality wars: how to make disputes about human rationality disappear? In: Renee R (ed) Common sense, reasoning and rationality. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 236–268CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Simpson G (1963) This view of life: the world of an evolutionist. Harper, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Sober E, Wilson DS (1998) Unto others: the evolution and psychology of unselfish behavior. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  40. Stanovich KE (1999) Who is rational? Studies of individual differences in reasoning. Erlbaum, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  41. Stanovich K, West R (2003) Evolutionary versus instrumental goals: how evolutionary psychology misconceives human rationality. In: Over E (ed) Evolution and the psychology of thinking: the debate. Psychology Press, New York, pp 171–230Google Scholar
  42. Stein E (1996) Without good reason: the rationality debate in philosophy and cognitive science. Clarendon Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  43. Sterelny K (2003) Thought in a hostile world. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  44. Stevens JR (2008) The evolutionary biology of decision making. In: Engel C, Singer W (eds) Better than conscious? Strüngmann forum reports 1. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 285–304Google Scholar
  45. Stevens JR (2010) Rational decision making in primates: the bounded and the ecological. In: Platt ML, Ghazanfar AA (eds) Primate neuroethology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 96–116Google Scholar
  46. Stich S (1990) The fragmentation of reason. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  47. Taylor SE, Lerner JS, Sherman DK, Sage RM, McDowell NK (2003) Are self-enhancing cognitions associated with healthy or unhealthy biological profiles? J Pers Soc Psychol 85:605–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Todd P (2001) Fast and frugal heuristics for environmentally bounded minds. In: Gigerenzer G, Selten R (eds) Bounded rationality: the adaptive toolbox. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 51–70Google Scholar
  49. Todd PM, Gigerenzer G (2000) Précis of Simple heuristics that make us smart. Behav Brain Sci 23:727–741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Trivers RL (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Campbell B (ed) Sexual selection and the descent of man: 1871–1971. Aldine, Chicago, pp 136–179Google Scholar
  51. Tversky A, Kahneman D (1983) Extensional versus intuitive reasoning: the conjunction fallacy in probability judgment. Psychol Rev 90:293–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wuketits FM (1990) Evolutionary epistemology and its implications for humankind. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

Personalised recommendations