Smart Is Not An Excuse To Not Learn About Rationality
Why intelligent people do foolish things, advocate unwise policies and believe in nonsense?
Same reason not-so-intelligent people do all of the above. No surprise.
Being intelligent isn’t the same as being rational. Being intelligent doesn’t even correlate with being rational 1. However, it is easier for an intelligent person to apply methods of rationality.
As a consequence if you haven’t learned instrumental rationality then chances are you lack the methodology to arrive at accurate conclusions. That isn’t to say you are wrong, but I simply can’t take your word for it. Neither should you trust yourself as human minds are very fallible.
There is plenty of ways to arrive at wrong conclusions. Wiki has a comprehensive list of fallacies. No one is shielded from them if they aren’t vigilant.
One of the most common pitfalls I observe is for an individual to be surrounded by like-minded people who happen to have same views on a lot of things. People fall into a trap of treating their views with more and more certainty. When in doubt they consult their like-minded friends or read articles confirming their views. Self-assuring groups form very quickly which are antagonistic to groups who don’t share their views.
Just a quick clarification what the term rationality means in this text:
- having an accurate model of the world, i.e. not believing unsubstantiated statements; seeking all possible explanations for evidence at hand
- updating the model accordingly with new knowledge, i.e. changing mind
- making optimal decisions. Decisions that reflect person’s values and are utilising his/her resources efficiency.
My summary of rationality has a lot of unexplained terms: what counts as substantiated, what is an explanation, how to update the model and so forth.
It is an excellent place to start.
A simplification. Precise statement can be found on a taxonomy of bias the cognitive miser:
All things being equal, a high-IQ person would have a better chance of avoiding bias if they stopped to think things through, but a higher algorithmic efficiency doesn’t help them if it’s not in their nature to ever bother doing so. In tests of rational thinking where the subjects are explicitly instructed to consider the issue in a detached and objective manner, there’s a correlation of .3 - .4 between IQ and test performance. But if such instructions are not given, and people are free to reason in a biased or unbiased way as they wish (like in real life), the correlation between IQ and rationality falls to nearly zero!