Oct 6, 2016

IDEAL: The Cure for 'Dysrationalia'?

A few years ago, my friend Bill and I became frustrated with the phrase "common sense." As many have pointed out, it isn't very common, so it makes little sense to tell someone to use common sense to arrive at what should be an obvious conclusion.

Put another way, the reason people don't think things through properly isn't a lack of common sense. It's a lack of some things that are uncommon. So what are those things?

We came up with five, which we made into an acronym (we're both military). The acronym is IDEAL, and it stands for the following:
I - Intelligence
D - Discipline
E - Experience
A - Awareness
L - Logic
Each of these attributes is different and, we believe, necessary in order to reach a rational conclusion. Each of these also has a quotient that occurs in varying degrees in different people. For instance, I have met many people with high intelligence quotients (IQs) but low discipline quotients (mentally lazy) experience quotients (book smart but not street smart), awareness quotients (clueless about world affairs) and/or logic quotients (prone to common fallacies).

I thought about this recently when I read an article in The New York Times titled, "The Difference Between Rationality and Intelligence." Here's the nut:

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 ... 
In a series of studies, Professor [Keith] Stanovich and colleagues had large samples of subjects (usually several hundred) complete judgment tests ... as well as an I.Q. test. The major finding was that irrationality — or what Professor Stanovich called “dysrationalia” — correlates relatively weakly with I.Q. A person with a high I.Q. is about as likely to suffer from dysrationalia as a person with a low I.Q. In a 2008 study, Professor Stanovich and colleagues gave subjects the Linda problem and found that those with a high I.Q. were, if anything, more prone to the conjunction fallacy.
Based on this evidence, Professor Stanovich and colleagues have introduced the concept of the rationality quotient, or R.Q. If an I.Q. test measures something like raw intellectual horsepower (abstract reasoning and verbal ability), a test of R.Q. would measure the propensity for reflective thought — stepping back from your own thinking and correcting its faulty tendencies.
In a lengthier pieceScientific American looked at some of the causes of dysrationalia:
One cause of dysrationalia is that people tend to be cognitive misers, meaning that they take the easy way out when trying to solve problems, often leading to solutions that are wrong. 
Another cause of dysrationalia is the mindware gap, which occurs when people lack the specific knowledge, rules and strategies needed to think rationally.
If dysrationalia is the disease, is IDEAL the cure?