You are a smart or rational?

It would seem, are one and the same, but actually between these two characteristics of human consciousness there are significant differences.

History of research began in the 1970’s when psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky conducted a series of experiments proving that even the smartest of us tend to make decisions based more on intuition than on logic. Here is one of the clearest examples:

In the experiment, the subjects were asked to read the following text: “Linda is 31 years old, she is not married, straight and very smart. As a student she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and also participated in demonstrations against the use of the atom”. Participants were then asked what is the most probable: A) Linda is an operator or (B) Linda is an operator and is actively involved in the feminist movement. Eighty-five percent of the subjects chose the answer (B), although from the point of view of formal logic the answer (A) is more likely. (After all, it remains the operator regardless of their views on feminism).

In the problem about Linda we have fallen victim to the mistakes of coniunctio belief that the joint occurrence of two events is more likely than the occurrence of one of them. In other cases, we ignore information about the predominance of one event, when judged by their probability. We do not pay attention to alternative explanations. We evaluate the evidence according to our beliefs. And so on. It seems that our irrationality is fundamental.

But, since the 1990’s, scientists began to understand that this view is incomplete. Some people show a high degree of rationality, even if judged according to Kahneman and Tversky. But who are these rational people? Apparently, more intelligent, isn’t it?

It turns out, not so. Professor of psychology Kate Stanovich conducted a series of experiments involving large groups of subjects. They were asked to pass assessment tests (similar problem with Linda), and also tests for intelligence quotient. After comparing the results it became clear that irrationality is precisely what Stanovich called “discretionality” – has little to do with IQ. Intellectuals suffer from discretionality as often and sometimes more often than people with a low IQ. According to the results of their discoveries Stanovich with colleagues proposed the concept of the coefficient of rationality. Like test IQ assess the overall level of mental development, test RQ is supposed to measure predisposition to reflective thinking – the ability to assess the flow of your thoughts and to adjust their direction.

There is evidence that rationality, unlike intelligence, can be developed. For example, psychologist Cary Morvaj with colleagues carried out the following series of experiments. Participants (over 200 people) were asked to respond to tests that determine the level of error in the decision. Then the part of the subjects viewed an educational film explaining the errors, and the other part played the interactive computer game, simulating the adoption of real solutions. After each answer to the question of the game, the participants received an assessment of their response and an explanation of the subject matter. Then the subjects twice have passed tests for making decisions – immediately upon completion of training, and two months later.

As a result of experiments it was found that the training significantly reduced the level of error in the decision. And the computer training gave a greater effect in comparison with a training film. And although there is scant evidence that “brain training” of any sort have a real influence on intelligence, it is hoped that it is possible to train people to make decisions more rationally.

We can hardly hope ever people no longer make mistakes when making decisions. However, developing the tests to identify the most rational and trainings to improve the rationality of others, scientists can nudge society in the right direction.

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