(This is a guest post by Brian Hedden. 2400 words; 10 minute read.)
It’s now part of conventional wisdom that people are irrational in systematic and predictable ways. Research purporting to demonstrate this has resulted in at least 2 Nobel Prizes and a number of best-selling books. It’s also revolutionized economics and the law, with potentially significant implications for public policy.
Recently, some scholars have begun pushing back against this dominant irrationalist narrative. Much of the pushback has come from philosophers, and it has come by way of questioning the normative models of rationality assumed by the irrationalist economists and psychologists. Tom Kelly has argued that sometimes, preferences that appear to constitute committing the sunk cost fallacy should perhaps really be regarded as perfectly rational preferences concerning the narrative arc of one’s life and projects. Jacob Nebel has argued that status quo bias can sometimes amount to a perfectly justifiable conservatism about value. And Kevin Dorst has argued that polarization and the overconfidence effect might be perfectly rational responses to ambiguous evidence.
In this post, I’ll explain my own work pushing back against the conclusion that humans are predictably irrational in virtue of displaying so-called hindsight bias. Hindsight bias is the phenomenon whereby knowing that some event actually occurred leads you to give a higher estimate of the degree to which that event’s occurrence was supported by the evidence available beforehand. I argue that not only is hindsight bias often not irrational; sometimes it’s even rationally required, and so failure to display hindsight bias would be irrational.
(This is a guest post by Sarah Fisher. 2000 words; 8 minute read.)
We could all do with imagining ourselves into a different situation right now. For me, it would probably be a sunny café, with a coffee and a delicious pastry in front of me––bliss. Here’s another scenario that seems ever more improbable as time goes by (remember when we played and watched sports…?!):
Philosopher at MIT, trying to convince people that their opponents are more reasonable than they think
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