Rationality is the idea that the best life can be achieved by thinking scientifically and by reducing cognitive biases. The "mental muscle" that rationality trains is to question one's own assumptions, to consider multiple alternative explanations and to incorporate new information not as all or nothing, but as more and less convincing evidence that increases or decreases one's belief in various alternative truths, one of which may be the actual truth. This does not necessarily mean to behave autistically like Spock, but this is often hard to avoid.
What rationalists are[edit | edit source]
- … excellent reasoners in all regards: They can accurately evaluate others' reasoning as well as their own. They can also think fluidly about facts and figures, and they can evaluate and plan for the future. Rationalists are rarely susceptible to the cognitive biases that trip up others.
- … reflective: They dislike jumping to conclusions quickly. Are adept at reflecting on their own thoughts. When intuition might be leading the rationalist astray, he or she won't have a problem overriding them — instead, they take the time to re-evaluate the situation and figure out the wisest course of action.
- … quantitative: They are good at working with numbers. Not necessarily in a schoolbook way. Rationalists are adept at putting math skills to use while solving problems in all manner of real-world situations.
- … prepared: They tend to think clearly and comprehensively about the future. This makes the rationalist an excellent planner, and stock investor. They are usually well prepared when beginning a new project, and are rarely caught by surprise.
- … skeptical: They treat new information and ideas with caution and skepticism. Spurious arguments rarely fool or confuse them, and they shape their beliefs toward hard logic. They possess a fine-tuned BS detector.
- … Bayesianists: There is a specific mathematical formula, called Bayes' Rule that describes the way a given piece of evidence should affect confidence in a theory. This can be useful even for people whom intuitively understand the way that evidence works. Rationalists have a clear understanding of the way that evidence should affect confidence in a theory. This quality helps to ensure no over- or under-confident in ideas and beliefs.
- … learners: Rationalists rarely repeat the same mistakes more than once. They are comfortable with reflecting frankly on how and why mistakes are made which pays off when they are learnt from.
- … good at seeing through tricky or deceptive arguments: This quality makes the rationalist a formidable opponent in debates, as well as a better writer and thinker. Rationalists also have an perfect sense of the true value of free time, priceless. This characteristic helps the rationalist use the full potential of both time and money so as to rarely waste either.
Examples of cognitive biases[edit | edit source]
- Sunk cost fallacy is a cognitive bias that distorts decisions about which pursuits are worth continuing and which aren't.
- Explanation freeze: Cognitive scientists at Big Think have identified an odd but common tendency among most people to come up with just one or two explanations under uncertain circumstances. Rationalists tend to come up with multiple explanations for unclear or uncertain situations. This tendency is very useful to avoid unnecessarily concern about frightening possibilities, such as flying in a plane and allows one to notice serious issues where others might not.
- Planning fallacy: Most people are susceptible to a reasoning quirk called the Planning Fallacy, which causes non rational people to guess too optimistically when thinking about the time and resources needed for endeavors.
Rationality and attractiveness[edit | edit source]
Analysis of evaluations of a product and willingness to buy both revealed attractiveness × message tone interactions, such that both liking and behavioral intentions were greater when the emotional endorsement was attributed to the attractive than to the unattractive communicator, with no effects for rational endorsement.
Rationality and intelligence[edit | edit source]
Rationality tends to be unpopular because in popular media it is often depicted as autistic (e.g. Spock), and it does not satisfy human emotions like tribalism and the preference for simple answers very much. Also, rationality is often intimidating for the less intelligent because most of their attempts at rational thought are embarrassing. Only the most intelligent can really draw pleasure and dominance status from rationality. Still, most concepts like the method of science are simple enough for most people to understand them, e.g. a study showed that nearly everyone can act rationally.
Rationality vs evo-psychology[edit | edit source]
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References[edit | edit source]