DYSRATIONALIA
By Karl Arnold Belser
29 December 2014



The article Rational and Irrational Thought: The Thinking that IQ Tests Miss by Keith Stanovich in Scientific American gave me more insight into why people with intelligence might hold mistaken beliefs and behave in irrational ways. The net is that he thinks that there might be another human dimension other than the intelligence measured by an IQ test. Stanovich calls this dimension "dysrationalia" as if it were a built in mistake in the brain like, for example, dyslexia.

I first wrote about this issue in my post Financial Literacy when I wondered why intelligent people lacked  what I called self discipline. Then in my post Longevity and Wealth I speculated intelligence and self discipline might be correlated. However, I concluded that intelligence and self discipline are really separate aspects of people in my post  Cognitive Deficit and Longevity. The scientific American article brought the issue into clearer focus.

The difference is apparently the habit of using System 2 instead of System 1 thinking as Daniel Kehneman describes in Thinking, Fast and Slow. System 1 thinking is fast reflexive thinking which most people do automatically. System 2 thinking is slower because the person has to state a problem, possibly write equations on a piece of paper, and evoke available analysis tools.


I suspect that
"dysrationalia" is the result of habit rather than a genetic defect that is unrepairable. I say this because of the article How to Debunk False Beliefs Without Having It Backfire by John Cook in VOX, which is based  on the free book  The Debunking Handbook. Mr Cook points out that once a thought is planted in the brain it cannot be erased instantly. Instead there will always be a residual association about the debunked thought.  This suggests that the learned but debunked thought is encoded at a very basic level in the brain, perhaps in epigenetics.

I am interested in improving my thinking. Hence, I want to debunk myself, if I can, by reconsidering some of my beliefs.  

For example I have intimated that the world has entered a steady state of low economic growth. Larry Summers, among others, have named this issue Secular Stagnation. Even Paul Krugman has this suspicion as I discuss in my post Minsky Moment and Secular Stagnation.  The problem is confirmation bias, because I am collecting and commenting on articles that support the idea that the world is experiencing secular stagnation.

The Washington Post article Here's Why Larry Summers  is Wrong about Secular Stagnation gives a contrarian view. The author argues that the world is experiencing a very long business cycle whose recession we will ultimately recover from.

My comment here, as it was for my post The Second Machine Age and Stagnation is that there is no underlying mental model  showing how the human race will be able to survive the lack of food, lack of water, and pollution in an environment of rising temperatures and increasing world population.  

I observe that econometrics models data with equations but usually does not illuminate the mechanism which causes the data to be that way.  In control systems it is imperative to have a good model of the system being controlled. Much of economics and public policy has no such model. Hence, public policy might make a situation worse.
   
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