Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber say reasoning “does not mean what we think it means”:

Reasoning is generally seen as a mean to improve knowledge and make better decisions. Much evidence, however, shows that reasoning often leads to epistemic distortions and poor decisions. This suggests rethinking the function of reasoning. Our hypothesis is that the function of reasoning is argumentative. It is to devise and evaluate arguments intended to persuade. Reasoning so conceived is adaptive given human exceptional dependence on communication and vulnerability to misinformation. A wide range of evidence in the psychology or reasoning and decision making can be reinterpreted and better explained in the light of this hypothesis.

I like a conceptual take-down of rational choice theory as much as the next guy, but I wonder why it has to be either-or.  Personally, I think reasoning is context dependent.  There are times where I reason to win an argument and there are times when I reason to show how smart I am and cover up any  baseline insecurities I might have 🙂  It would be great if scholarship started moving beyond hot vs. cold cognition to looking at when cognition is hot and when it is cold.

HT: Henry Farrell (Monkey Cage)