Dates: Tuesday 15 October

Speaker: Dr Jim Baggott

Start Time: 18.15

Finish Time: 19.45

Location: Drawing Room


Dr Baggott is an award-winning popular science writer and author, with more than 20 years’ experience writing on topics in the physical, chemical and biological sciences. His articles have appeared in online and offline media, and he has made many appearances on radio and television.


How We Believe, How We Decide, And Why We’re Vulnerable

This lecture will summarise conclusions from recent studies in cognitive science about how our minds process information and how we come to form beliefs and make decisions. Examples to be drawn from Steven Sloman & Philip Fernback’s ‘The Knowledge Illusion’, and Daniel Kahnemann’s ‘Thinking, Fast & Slow’.
Because our modern lives are time-starved and complex, and we’re obliged to make so many decisions (mostly small, but some big), it’s inevitable that we fall back on Kahnemann’s ‘System 1’, our inner Kirk or our ‘machine for jumping to conclusions’. We rely on intuition (what feels right) and our network of beliefs in order to make decisions
quickly. We often don’t have the luxury of time to deliberate, and increasingly we don’t have the inclination. We don’t accumulate and assess all the facts, determine the integrity of the sources of these facts, and come to a rational conclusion, using ‘System 2’. We overlook the fact that we don’t really understand, or we fall prey to the ‘illusion of explanatory depth’. From the perspective of decisions in favour of overtly anti-scientific arguments, the increasing reliance on ‘System 1’ potentially exposes us to manipulation.
This lecture will conclude with a brief overview of the nature and mechanics of propaganda, based on Edward Bernays’ 1928 book.