Is there a objective test or measure to separate the rational from the irrational? If not, we are victims of our confirmation bias, right?

Tags: Rationality

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I am inclined to think that you can test rationality to an extent -you can see if you can reach your conclusion in a series of clear steps that can each be tested for truth, or at least usefulness. It is not something I have thought about much so far though.
That sounds like a reasonable approach.

Sometimes people act as if they have logic on their side. Sometimes there is more than one logical conclusion that a person can come to, and people could even be on opposite sides of an issue logically. Not that most people actually use logic...
Deduction/logic can eliminate certain potential conclusions from the field of possibility, but cannot always reduce the field of potential conclusion down to one.
Really good question. I want to give it more thought...

Being rational is not our natural state, but a skill to be practiced. Logic has defined rules and parameters that can be measured.
Here are some assessment tools for measuring critical thinking.
I use this rubric for evaluating students. It is pretty subjective though.:
I have read that most people, even the most rational, tend to reach conclusions internally before considering all the data and based on bias and then back up that conclusion with (often limited) evidence. If this is true then we are not innately rational, as Edward said. It seems clear that being rational requires some effort to overcome our tendencies towards bias, effort that not everyone makes.
Agreed. Rational thinking and analysis (critical thinking) is a learned skill. That in turn includes, base intellect, formative environment and opportunity.
However, even the most rational have bias and make judgements based on emotion - both of which are irrational.
Carver is right on the money.

I'll have to find the link - but here's an interesting thing about rash v. rational. Apparently, (this is actual neuroscience) there is a hierarchy of decision making that goes like this:

1. If your 'lizard brain' (instinct etc.) is put into fight, flight or freeze mode, then your 'decision' will be a reaction - operating - more or less - as a reflex. This reflex can be altered through training. For example, a person trained in karate will likely fall - even without warning - with a reduced chance of injury. In this realm, thousands of 'choices' are made through trained reflex - almost literally without thinking.

2. Your 'emotional brain' (rash as it is) is the part of your mind that most readily makes choices that don't immediately involve your survival. Because of this, kids tend to make decisions more readily - though with far less respect to potential outcomes. (Parents will say - my kid's can't choose - but that is usually because they don't like their choices - spinach or cauliflower? Yuck.) Making decisions entirely with our emotional brain when our lizard brain feels safe enough to allow it means that consequences beyond immediate threats are not considered. But a decision gets made.

3. Your 'rational mind' is almost incapable of making decisions. Yes, you read right. Apparently, your frontal cortex (the very thin veneer of cells on the front of your brain that is 'rational') can 'play out' scenarios, list pros and cons, build decision trees, analyze cost/benefits - but it sucks at pulling the trigger.

At the end of the day, rationality influences the decisions of our emotional brain as far as our lizard brain will allow. This is why a good decision maker is not, necessarily, the smartest person in the room. One key aspect of being a good decision maker is the ability to actually make a decision. Metaphorically, this is why Spock was First Officer and Kirk was Captain.
It's true. We make irrational choices all day long. If we didn't, we would all be eating, a healthy diet, exercising, reducing stress, staying out of destructive relationships, having no road rage... I have a hard time over riding the compulsion to buy a diet Mountain Dew!
Howard, I absolutely love your explanation.

The replies to this post reminds me of my coworkers. We give them the tools to do their job but many fail at making a logical decision. The majority are emotional based and tend to make the analytical based want to do a facepalm atleast once a day.
About #3, I've heard something about this in the past. If I remember correctly, we can't make even a simple decision without emotion. We would never leave the cereal isle pondering the benifits of fiber verses fruits and nuts. What we actually do is remember that we liked the taste of brand x better, or one box looks better over the other, and we're done.

Thinking out loud, this would mean 100% rational Vulcans are an impossibility. It's easy to compare them to us and see why they wouldn't survive. I guess they're possible if you omit emotion from their evolutionary development but it looks to me that, on this planet, emotion is a required building block. Of course Vulcans did have strong emotions but worked to suppress them. I'm just wondering if it's possible to go from lizard brain straight to rational.


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