What Is Rationality?

Good sense is the best distributed thing in the world: for everyone thinks himself so well endowed with it that even those who are the hardest to please in everything else do not usually desire more of it than they possess.

- René Descartes, Discourse on the Method

Podcast of the Day

You've heard plenty about biases: the thinking errors the human brain tends to make. But is there anything we can do to make ourselves *less* biased?  In this episode, Massimo and Julia discuss what psychological research has learned about "de-biasing," the challenges involved, and the de-biasing strategies Julia is implementing at her organization, the Center for Applied Rationality.

Listen to the Rationally Speaking podcast episode on Applied Rationality

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

ARE you intelligent — or rational? The question may sound redundant, but in recent years researchers have demonstrated just how distinct those two cognitive attributes actually are.

It all started in the early 1970s, when the psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky conducted an influential series of experiments showing that all of us, even highly intelligent people, are prone to irrationality. Across a wide range of scenarios, the experiments revealed, people tend to make decisions based on intuition rather than reason...

Continue reading Hambrick & Burgoyne's article: The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence

Further Reading

Rationality is the quality or state of being rational: based on or agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons to believe, or of one's actions with one's reasons for action. "Rationality" has different specialized meanings in philosophy, economics, sociology, psychology, evolutionary biology, game theory and political science.

To determine what behavior is the most rational, one needs to make several key assumptions, and also needs a quantifiable formulation of the problem. When the goal or problem involves making a decision, rationality factors in how much information is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge). Collectively, the formulation and background assumptions are the model within which rationality applies. Illustrating the relativity of rationality: if one accepts a model in which benefitting oneself is optimal, then rationality is equated with behavior that is self-interested to the point of being selfish; whereas if one accepts a model in which benefiting the group is optimal, then purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational. It is thus meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Rationality

Related Topics

 CognitionCognitive BiasesDecision TheoryGame Theory | Intelligence | KnowledgeLogic | Uncertainty

Become a lifelong learner. Sign up via email to get the best videos, articles and podcasts on a new topic each day. Or you can follow on Twitter or Facebook.

Leave a Reply