Rationality & The Reflective Mind

Rationality & The Reflective Mind
An academic book which examines the link, or lack thereof, between the concepts of intelligence and rationality. Rationality & The Reflective Mind also explores ways in which a test of rationality could theoretically be constructed based on the current scientific evidence.

This is not a book that would appeal to a broad range of people, but I enjoyed it substantially and is has relatively wide-sweeping implications given how much stock, as a society, we place in IQ. Stanovich has a prolific academic career and has done significant work to demonstrate that intelligence and rationality (knowing what to believe and how to make the best decisions) are not related to the degree to which we tend to think they are.

Stanovich argues, convincingly, throughout the book that the use of IQ tests is a flawed measure for “real world” cognitive ability. IQ tests are delivered in a manner where the end goal is clear, and thus the test is to progress faster or further in order to score more highly. This kind of testing does measure the performance of what is known as “System 2” thinking in cognitive psychology, but it is not realistic or practical in a messy and less constrained environment.

Stanovich demonstrates that effective thinking is dependant on the level above what all current thinking-related tests measure. He suggests that all the computational horsepower of a high IQ mind is wasted if it is not directed to work on the right tasks, seek appropriate goals or isn’t interrupted when it is off task or working on an unproductive endeavour. For this reason, Stanovich proposes that Dual-Process Theory be expanded to a tripartite model, where System 2 is split into two components: the analytical mind (which is what IQ tests measure) and the reflective mind (the higher-order processing that guides the analytical mind).

As I said, this is certainly not a book for everyone. It is very dry and full of scientific references, but if you’re a rationality nerd with ambitions of becoming a decision-making Jedi, then it is certainly a book worth reading, and closely.

Notable Quotes:

“Subprocesses of the brain do not display rational or irrational properties per se, although they may contribute in one way or another to personal decisions or beliefs that could be characterised as such. Rationality concerns the actions of an entity in an environment that serves its goals.”

“When we are over-reliant on heuristic processing we lose personal autonomy. We give up our thinking to those who manipulate our environments, and we let our actions be determined by those who can create the stimuli that best-trigger our shallow automatic processing tendencies.”

Related Posts

Leave a Reply