PSYA02 Jan. 11, 2013
Free Will and Rationality
We often feel as though the choices we make in life are rationale … the result of mental
calculations related to the costs and benefits of performing certain actions.
Realization that we are not machines and are therefore capable of controlling our
own behaviours (maybe?)
The notion that we make choices by maximizing benefits and minimizing costs is called
Rational Choice Theory.
Ties to ethics/religion/law: believe that some choices are “wrong” and punish those who
make them … assuming they made a rational choice
Religion: based on the idea of rational choices. By following the teachings
(dogma) of the church, people should be able to make better choices.
Law: this is especially prevalent in criminal trials. It is always a task to prove that
the criminal had consciously made the decision to commit the crime.
(Premeditation = murder 1; random act = murder 2)
o Example: Colorado shooter – did he actually have the conscious thought
to commit the crime? The fact that his apartment was booby trapped to
distract that police force shows planning = premeditation = rational
o Some opinions argue that we don‟t actually make decisions. We do things
and our conscious mind tries to deal with these decisions.
Shortcuts to Rationality
Rational thought is tricky – consideration of many factors and how they may interact.
Humans are not computers so we do not use algorithms (some that we could just put a
factor in to and have an answer come out perfectly. We instead use rough rules called
heuristics, which do not give definite results.
People are more likely to die texting while driving instead of in a plane
crash caused by terrorists. However, due to media, things are inflated and
more present (available) in people‟s minds so it seems like it should
happen more often. PSYA02 Jan. 11, 2013
Linda is 31 years old; single, outspoken and very bright. In
College she majored in Philosophy. As a student she was
deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social
justice, and she participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations.
Which of the following is more likely (a) Linda is a bank teller,
or (b) Linda is a bank teller and a feminist
The answer is a however most people will pick b based on stereotypes. None of the info
except for the fact that Linda is a bank teller is really relevant. Sometimes stereotypes
can be good (glasses make you look smarter) but for the most part, they are inaccurate
and end up with people being filed into inaccurate groups, leading to conjunction
problems (when it is assumed that specific conditions are more probable than a single