Knowledge Questions: What is the relationship between reason and intuition? Do we use reason or intuition more when determining truth?
The following are passages from Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason. We all need to take a cold hard look at the evidence and see reasoning for what it is. The French cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber recently reviewed the vast research literature on motivated reasoning (in social psychology) and on the biases and errors of reasoning (in cognitive psychology). They concluded that most of the bizarre and depressing research findings make perfect sense once you see reasoning as having evolved not to help us find truth but to help us engage in arguments, persuasion, and manipulation in the context of discussions with other people…
In the same way, each individual reasoner is really good at one thing: finding evidence to support the position he or she already holds, usually for intuitive reasons. We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play.
This link is to the larger passage from the book.
When our brains don’t have a good intuition for reasoning with numbers, explicit probabilistic thinking can lead to improved decision-making.
“Numbers may feel instinctual. They may seem simple and precise. But Everett synthesizes the latest research from archaeology, anthropology, psychology and linguistics to argue that our counting systems are not just vital to human culture but also were invented by that culture. “Numbers are not concepts that come to people naturally and natively,” he writes. “Numbers are a creation of the human mind.””
“We humans have collectively accumulated a lot of science knowledge. We’ve developed vaccines that can eradicate some of the most devastating diseases. We’ve engineered bridges and cities and the internet. We’ve created massive metal vehicles that rise tens of thousands of feet and then safely set down on the other side of the globe. And this is just the tip of the iceberg (which, by the way, we’ve discovered is melting). While this shared knowledge is impressive, it’s not distributed evenly. Not even close. There are too many important issues that science has reached a consensus on that the public has not.”
“Helping someone in desperate need is an ethical choice, yet it is a choice we would all make without hesitating, i.e. thinking a single thought. The reason, according to Harvard Law Professor Glenn Cohen, is that ethical choices start in the gut. Our intuition, programmed my millions of years of evolution, instructs us what to do without needing rational deliberation. But at times, especially when making an ethical decision implies a sacrifice on our behalf, rational deliberation is necessary, and likely inescapable.”
Below is a link to the first in a series of New York Times videos examining the subject. It is related to the idea of intuition and how we acquire and process knowledge and information.
“Even in an industry where minority workers sometimes appear to be favored for highly desirable jobs,” the two concluded, “employers may still fall prey to symbolic discrimination, relying on deeply embedded stereotypes about minority groups during the interview process.”