Philosophers and Cognitive Bias

Philosophers and Cognitive Bias


Should the order in which a person considers thought experiments affect one’s responses to them? Rationally, it seems no. Yet the “order effect” is well-confirmed. What about philosophers? We are supposed to have a kind of expertise in handling thought experiments and are known (?) for thinking clearly and rationally; certainly the content of our judgments are not susceptible to something as trivial as the order in which we are prompted to make them! Um…..

We were unable to find any level of expertise at which the order effects were detectably reduced. Nor did adding a reflection condition appear to reduce the order effects…. If anything, the trend appears to be toward larger order effects with increasing expertise.

That’s Eric Schwitzgebel, reporting on a recent study he conducted with Fiery Cushman. It is but the latest piece of evidence that not just the lay folk, but also those who have long understood themselves as experts in rationality, those members of the discipline of philosophy, are no less resistant to cognitive biases.

The significance of these kinds of findings for philosophy is, in my view, major, and has yet to be sufficiently appreciated.

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