The Problem with the Way Scientists Study Reason – Facts So Romantic – Nautilus

Mercier and Sperber say that reason is a tool that evolved to solve particular problems related to communication, like evaluating information provided by others, convincing family or tribe members with arguments, and justifying one’s behavior to protect and improve one’s reputation in a complex social world. Their theory makes novel and testable hypotheses, like that reason works best when people argue with each other rather than reason alone, and that we evaluate arguments more objectively than we make them.

In light of their theory, the failure and success of reasoning tasks makes more sense. For example, alone, we are mediocre at solving the bat and ball problem, but in a more ecological setting, when we can argue and reason collectively, the right answer spreads like wildfire, as Mercier and his colleagues showed in a 2017 study, “Argumentation and the Diffusion of Counter-Intuitive Beliefs.”
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