Date: Tuesday 27 October 2020

Speaker: Dr Jim Baggott

Start Time: 18.15

Finish Time: 19.45

Location: Zoom


How we believe, how we decide and why we’re vulnerable

Summarises 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; 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, 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. I’ll conclude this lecture with a brief overview of the nature and mechanics of propaganda, based on Edward Bernay’s 1928 book.