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Hugh R Alcock

Prelude Two Cognitive Systems Before discussing the main topic for today I want to introduce you to a key idea that will relate to much of the material throughout this courseI shall call it the Two Systems IdeaThis idea is presented by Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and SlowThere he explains how we have two ways of cognisingThe first involves quick thinking For example if you are shown an angry face you immediately recognise it assuch and anticipate the person saying something abusive or acting aggressivelyOther tasks System 1 performs includedetecting when one object is more distant than another completing the phrase bread and and so on The second involves deliberate slow thinkingFor example system 2 kicks in when you are confronted with the task of calculating 17X24Other tasks involving system 2 include telling someone your phone number filling out a tax form checking the validity of a complex logical argumentIt is important to note that these systems work in tandem We do not simply think in one way or the other normally we use bothConsequently System 1 can interfere with system 2For example consider the following argumentAll roses are flowersSome flowers fade quicklyTherefore some roses fade quicklyIs this a good argumentMost people think that this argument is validgood It is not The reason most people get it wrong is that they fall back on system 1 and are reluctant to use system 2 given the effort it requires When something seems right to us we happily assume it is without checkingThe Psychology of Belief Today we are going to look at some of the ways we acquire our beliefs and how shaky the grounds often are for our having themDo you believe that this cinnamon bun depicts Mother Teresa Do you believe that Monaco pictured above on the French Riviera is further south than TorontoIn general our beliefs guide our actionsTherefore we are strongly inclined to believe one way or another because of our desire to act Beliefs are empoweringIdeally we hold our beliefs for a reason so that we can explain why we believe what we doHowever there are many ways in which our beliefs are rationally compromised Often we acquire beliefs irrationallyLet us look at five common ways in which we come to believe something irrationally1 Conformity
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