Rationality and Reasoning Research: A Guide for the Perplexed
Abstract. Diagnoses of irrationality often arise in the empirical investigation of human reasoning. How can such diagnoses be disputed and assessed? I will articulate a principled classification of different cases relying on a view of experimental work from a philosophy of science perspective. We will then see that much fruitful research done with classical experimental paradigms was triggered by normative concerns and yet fostered scientific progress in properly psychological terms. The framework outlined provides new insight into many cornerstone examples, including Wason’s selection task, the conjunction fallacy, so-called pseudodiagnosticity, and more besides. My conclusion will be that normative considerations retain a constructive role for the psychology of reasoning — contrary to recent complaints in the literature — but not the one that “normativist” cognitive scientists have often assumed. In particular, the approach I propose does not blur the is-ought distinction.