The Problem with the Way Scientists Study Reason

Psychologists studying reasoning extensively rely on logic and philosophy, and neglect psychology’s more natural ally: biology. Portrait of Luca Pacioli (1445–1517) with a student (Guidobaldo da Montefeltro?) / Attributed to Jacopo de’ Barbari / Wikicommons

In March, I was in Paris for the International Convention of Psychological Science, one of the most prestigious gatherings in cognitive science. I listened to talks from my field, human reasoning, but I also enjoyed those on ethology, because I find studies on non-human animals, from turtles to parrots, fascinating. Despite their typically small sample sizes, I found the scientific reasoning in the animal-studies talks sounder, and their explanations richer, than the work I heard on human reasoning.

The reason is simple: Ethologists evaluate their experimental paradigm, or set-up, in light of its ecological validity, or how well it matches natural surroundings. An animal’s true habitat, and its evolutionary history, have always centered the discussion.

Citiți o mostră, înregistrați-vă pentru a citi în continuare.

Mai multe de la Nautilus

Nautilus8 min cititePhysics
This Tenet Shows Time Travel May Be Possible: Director Christopher Nolan could take a tip from new research into “closed timelike curves.”
Time travel has been a beloved science-fiction idea at least since H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895. The concept continues to fascinate and fictional approaches keep coming, prodding us to wonder whether time travel is physically possible an
Nautilus8 min citite
Gaia, the Scientist: What if the first woman scientist was simply the first woman?
There exists a social hierarchy within science that strikes people who are not mixed up in it as ridiculous. It goes like this: Mathematicians are superior to Physicists, who are, in turn, superior to Chemists, who are of course, superior to Biologis
Nautilus10 min cititeBiology
How Intelligent Could Life Be Without Natural Selection?: Don’t be surprised if alien life forms are a lot like us.
I could stridently insist that natural selection is the only way that complex life can evolve, but that’s not strictly true. We can already design computers that can learn and reason and—almost—convince an observer that their behavior might be human.