[ExI] The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning

Richard Loosemore rpwl at lightlink.com
Fri Jun 17 03:23:19 UTC 2011

Gordon wrote:
> Richard Loosemore wrote:
>> As for explaining confirmation bias (and all the other so called
>> biasses):  we don't exactly need this new theory to explain that.
> ATR seems to me unique in that it explains cognitive biases as
> adaptive traits. If ATR is true (whatever that might mean) when we
> should expect humans to have cognitive biases, in particular the
> confirmation bias. We should not consider the confirmation bias as a
> shortcoming. It allows for an efficient division of labor: each
> member of the group will see the pros of his own position (while
> remaining mostly blind to the cons) even while weighing the pros and
> cons of those contradictory positions argued by others. This is
> easier and less expensive for the group than for each member to weigh
> both the pros and cons of his own position and the pros and cons of
> the positions of each of the others. Or says the theory, if I
> understand it correctly.

Well.....  :-) ATR is not the first to explain the various biasses in 
that way.

If you cast your mind back a little further than my involvement on the 
old AGI list, you may recall that I was once on another list ;-) and 
specifically I was in a discussion in which I pointed out that the 
various "cognitive biasses" are viewed by *many* cognitive psychologists 
as mechanisms that are actually extremely smart, economical and powerful 
in the context in which they normally operate ... which is another way 
of saying that they came into existence because they are adaptive traits.

Now, I said this in the SL4 debate in 2006, and Steven Pinker said it 
the same year in one of his books, but that same interpretation was 
fairly commonplace at least ten years before that (I remember talking to 
Mike Oaksford, who specialized in that area, about such issues back in 
1991).  (Didn't go over too well in 2006, but what the heck, it takes a 
while for some truths to penetrate some people's emotional biasses ;-)).

So I think the ATR idea meshes with that interpretation of the biasses, 
but it would not be the origin of the interpretation).

Richard Loosemore

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