Forthcoming: Master of Delusion

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Time to reprint those fan t-shirts, folks, as a new date has been added to my world tour. Next Tuesday evening I’m giving the keynote lecture at Psych Fest 2013, the, er, psychology festival at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. Drum roll for the abstract…

The “Delusion” Delusion: The persistence of counter-evidentiary reasoning

Notions such as democracy, law, and informed consent rely heavily on the assumption that, by and large, humans are capable of logical reasoning in a manner that coherently leads to accurate conclusions. Of course, psychological research has long demonstrated that human reasoning is actually characterised by many systematic biases and errors. Psychologists being human, these biases and errors are often rationalised in a number of self-serving ways, for example: as reflecting the limits of human reasoning when performed under duress; as the residual consequences of now obsolete environmental pressures; or as ‘mental shortcuts’ that tend to produce the correct decision anyway.

However, it may be that human beings are just incorrigibly irrational in ways that are destructive in the long-term, but that irrationality serves a number of short-term protective functions, and so can be expected to be preserved, rather than extinguished, by the pressures of natural selection. In other words, irrationality might be evolutionarily adaptive. If so, this would help explain the seemingly rampant nature of the anti-intellectualism, pseudoscience, and media panic that often characterises the contemporary milieu.

This lecture will consider biological, evolutionary, and socio-cultural research on how the human tendency to misunderstand promotes both individual and inclusive fitness, and on how logical reasoning can often subvert this process by exposing the individual to stress and harm. Paradoxes arising from the naturalistic fallacy – i.e., assuming that the way things are is the way they should be – will also be raised.

So there.

I’m not sure whether Joe/Josephine Public will be allowed in, but if so I’ll put those details here shortly.

For the other seven billion of you, slides etc will be posted here some time afterwards.

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UPDATE (8/4/13): Members of the public can attend! Details are as follows:
>> Time: 6 p.m., Tuesday 9 April
>> Venue: Room G08, Foundation Building, Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road, Limerick (MAP)



Categories: Alternative/Complementary Medicine, Authority appeals, Confirmation bias, Event, Evolution, Health, Lecture, Naive optimism, Pseudoscience, Psychology, Science, Statistics

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