Why Reason Matters: Connecting Research on Human Reason to the Challenges of the Anthropocene
The capacity to reason has improved the life of human beings in innumerable ways through the innovations it has wrought and the experiences it aﬀords. Culture, art, music, literature, science, and engineering are all products of reason that enrich our collective experience and well-being. Although these beneﬁts are intuitively apparent, a reﬂective analysis reveals that the same advances that better our lives also have come to threaten them. George Miller famously made this observation in his 1969 APA address, arguing that the “most urgent problems of our world today are the problems we have made for ourselves. … They are human problems whose solutions will require us to change our behavior and our social institutions” (p. 1063). This chapter aims to unpack this assertion by mapping the relations between human reason, innovation, and some of the biggest obstacles to the continued success of the human species. A review of contemporary societal and environmental problems in the context of modern reasoning research and applications of behavioural science reveals much in the way of interconnection. Reason is intimately bound to both the causes of and solutions to modern risks like climate change and large-scale conﬂict. In this chapter we argue that the empirical study of how we think, what we believe, and how we behave, and the practical application of lessons from such research, have the potential to play an important role in how we address our most threatening global problems. The study of morality, cooperation, creativity, belief formation, and how thinking relates to technology are identiﬁed as particularly pressing areas for researchers and practitioners to focus upon. It is argued that the pursuit of advancing and applying reasoning research must be elevated from an important area of psychological research to an urgent matter of global priority. In light of the strong ties between thinking, beliefs, and behaviours of relevance to large-scale challenges, the study of human reasoning and its application holds a particularly potent position in our navigation of the novel risks we now face. To survive and ﬂourish, we must study human reason and apply what we learn to how we live our lives.
Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of Pages
Anthropocene, behavioural science, human reason, reasoning research, psychological research
Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (FHASS)
© Nathaniel Barr, Gordon Pennycook
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Barr, Nathaniel and Pennycook, Gordon, "Why Reason Matters: Connecting Research on Human Reason to the Challenges of the Anthropocene" (2018). Books & Chapters. 11.
Barr, N., Pennycook, G. (2018). The new reflectionism in cognitive psychology: Why reason matters. In G. Pennycook (Ed.), The new reflectionism in cognitive psychology: Why reason matters. Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.