Why do we have so much trouble reasoning and solving problems?

Why do we have so much trouble reasoning and solving problems?

It seems that more and more people are getting carried away by their emotions rather than using logic to make decisions. But why is it so difficult for us to reason? This question has been the subject of much debate, research and scientific theories. In this article, we will examine some of the keys to this question.

We intend to show that people are much less rational than they usually think and to explain the reasons in a systematic way. No one, of course, including myself, is exempt from this lack of logic. We are all irrational and the more complex the decisions to make, the more we tend to be.

Irrationality can only be defined as a contrast with rationalitythat is why we must first ask ourselves what it means to be rational. Rationality takes two forms:

  • In the first case, rational thinking leads to the most likely conclusion correct, taking into account the available knowledge. Decisions made in this way are more complicated because a decision can only be evaluated if all the variables are known.
  • The other form of rationality is to act in such a way that the person, given his knowledge, have the best chance of achieving their goal.

"Rationality is not one of the strengths of humanity."

-John Scalzi-

Why is it so difficult for us to reason?

The book Irrationality, the inner enemy answers the question of why we so often make reasoning and problem-solving errors. This gives us a skeptical but hopeful view of our ability to think logically and act accordingly. In addition, he teaches us several procedures that we can follow to improve this ability.

All our mistakes can not be resolved by the procedures suggested by the author, Stuart Sutherland. However, it is very likely that if we had known the contents of this book before, most of us would not have made many bad decisions that directly or indirectly affected our lives.

The study of the mechanisms of irrationality is a path to self-knowledge and, by the same token, to the knowledge of the functioning of society. Obedience, conformism, availability error, organizational madness, out-of-place coherence, the halo effect, the spectator effect, stereotypes … are some of the characteristics of our thinking that are studied as possible sources of our wrong way of reasoning.

On the other hand, rationality is also linked to decision-making. In this sense, it is generally understood that if our choices are directed toward our ends, we will be rational people ; otherwise, we will not be. Several psychological factors lead us to make the right decisions. The main ones are: the ability to postpone judgment, the complexity of the decision and the influence of emotions.

Active reasoning is learned by practice; it must be practiced for a long time and in different ways.

Are we aware that we are falling into the traps of our own irrationality?

Beliefs do not always come from reality, but sometimes come from our need to maintain our self-image. For example, if we believe that others are unreliable, it may be because we have to consider ourselves honest people by comparison.

So, on some occasions, our strongest beliefs hide only a very deep fear. They may even be the projection of our own characteristics that we do not want to accept because they would conflict with the idealized image we have of ourselves.

Sometimes we are too comfortable and we do not want to change. When we believe in something, we take a position that suits us because we do not have to change or continue to search. Regardless of the content of a belief, once we take it for granted, our search is over. But sometimes this can lead to mistakes in our logic.

"Little observation and a lot of reasoning can lead to error, a lot of observations and a little reasoning to the truth."

-Alexis Carrel-

Can we train our reasoning?

Our way of thinking can and must be formed. From an early age, we are taught all kinds of personal care behaviors in relation to the physical: brushing teeth, washing, nails, eating, learning to get dressed. But what about psychological care and mental hygiene?

We must assume that our mind sometimes deceives us. The reality we observe goes through some filters first. These make that facing the same event (such as changes, breaks, unexpected situations ….), It is perceived as a wonderful opportunity or as a negative event.

These thought filters are so powerful that they can act as traps, that catch us and provoke emotions that are not always pleasant. In addition, they can make us make decisions or draw conclusions that are not entirely correct.

Ultimately, by taking care of our mental hygiene, we can escape our own intellectual traps, how can we do that? By following these rational principles, it will be easier for us to reason and solve our problems.

  • Look for evidence or arguments contrary to our beliefs
  • Do not believe that a statement is true because we believe that part of it is true
  • Keep in mind that changing your mind in the light of new evidence ist a sign of strength and not of weakness
  • Try not to get carried away by an action that we would not have chosen at the start
  • Do not get carried away by a crowd to do things we would not do alone

All our errors of thought can not be resolved by the rational principles that we suggest in this article; but it is very likely that with a little effort we will be able to improve ourselves enormously when it comes to making decisions and understanding how the world actually works.

"The human race disposes of art and reasoning in order to behave."


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