Lazy, not biased: Failing to reason is more common than motivated reasoning


Thursday, April 21, 2022, 4:00pm to 5:15pm


As part of the Conflict Management and Depolarization Seminar series
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Many of the problems that we face as a species emerge from failures of our own decision-making. However, a major impediment to developing meaningful solutions to this overarching problem is that there is substantial disagreement in psychology about the primary and characteristic sources of reasoning errors. Prominent theories espouse that deliberative reasoning is infirm in the face of salient intuitions and, when used, may actually exacerbate partisan bias via motivated reasoning. In this talk, I challenge these ideas and provide evidence that errors typically stem rather from a mere failure to sufficiently engage analytic thinking. Indeed, individual differences in analytic thinking are consequential for a wide variety of beliefs and behaviors, including moral judgments, religious/ paranormal/ conspiratorial/ pseudoscientific beliefs, and susceptibility to misinformation and pseudo-profound bullshit. Furthermore, the spread of misinformation can be slowed by simple prompts that trigger people to reflect on accuracy. Thus, reports of the death of reason has been greatly exaggerated and there are ways to improve our decision-making, so long as we accurately characterize what leads to errors in the first place. 
About the speaker:
Gordon Pennycook is an Associate Professor of Behavioural Science at University of Regina’s Hill/Levene Schools of Business. He is also an Associate Member of the Department of Psychology. Pennycook serves as a member of the editorial board for Thinking & Reasoning and a consulting editor for Judgment and Decision Making. He was also elected to be a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists in 2020. Gordon received the early career awards for the Association for Psychological Science (“Rising Star”), the Canadian Society for Brain, Behaviour, & Cognitive Science, the International Social Cognition Network, and the Psychonomics Society.
Pennycook completed his Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in 2009 under the supervision of Dr. Valerie Thompson at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada). In 2010, he moved to the University of Waterloo to work with Dr. Jonathan Fugelsang and Dr. Derek Koehler, receiving a Master of Arts degree in 2011 and a PhD in 2016. He then completed a two-year Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at Yale University (Department of Psychology) with Dr. David Rand and taught at the Yale School of Management with Dr. Shane Frederick.
About the series:
The Harvard Kennedy School Seminar in Conflict Management and Depolarization showcases cutting edge research on topics related to interpersonal, intergroup, organizational, and political conflict. The seminar offers an opportunity for scholars from psychology, political science, economics, organizational behavior and related disciplines to share research results and discuss their scientific and practical implications.
Click here for a full overview of this series, including past and future speakers.
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