It's not unreasonable – or is it?


Why are people turning their back on reason?

My friend is a wicked, evil person. I know that now. I thought she was kind, mild-mannered and tolerant. I now suspect she bites the heads off chickens and strangles kittens. Set aside that she's been married for many years, has a wide circle of friends, is fond of dogs, gets recruited regularly by different companies and has many testimonials on her LinkedIn profile. She must be beastly because a member of her staff is pursuing grievance procedures.

"What on earth for?" I enquired, concerned that the trauma of commuting (or, rather, not commuting) on Southern Rail may have finally got to my friend and she'd uncharacteristically shouted at a member of her staff.

Not so. The complainant in question was not doing her job and when told about this by my friend immediately protested and initiated grievance procedures.

The march of unreason

Coincidentally, I recently finished The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism, by former MP, Dick (now Baron) Taverne. Published 12 years ago, in the book Taverne argues that irrationality is on the rise in western society, and public opinion is increasingly dominated by unreflecting prejudice and unwillingness to engage with factual evidence.

The controversy over the MMR vaccine is one example. That many people interviewed in TV or radio vox pops around election times will invariably say "politicians are all the same" is part of the same trend. The desire to blame someone (anyone or anything) else for mistakes manifests in excuses for road accidents such as "A lamppost bumped into my car, damaging it in two places". Recently. the phrase 'alternative facts' has entered the lexicon thanks to President Trump's adviser, Kellyanne Conway.

The problem of balanced reporting

In a report entitled When Corrections Fail: The persistence of political misperceptions by Nyhan B and Reifler J (http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/nyhan-reifler.pdf) the authors wrote:

'…people typically receive corrective information within “objective” news reports pitting two sides of an argument against each other, which is significantly more ambiguous than receiving a correct answer from an omniscient source. In such cases, citizens are likely to resist or reject arguments and evidence contradicting their opinions…'

Applied rationality

To combat such examples of unreason requires applied rationality and LessWrong (www.lesswrong.com) is an informative community blog 'devoted to refining the art of human rationality'. On this blog, I was able to take a free rationality test (http://programs.clearerthinking.org/how_rational_are_you_really_take_the_test.html#.WIddJLGcaZM). It determined my reasoning style was 'detective' and surmised that I dislike jumping to conclusions quickly, am good at working with numbers, tend to live in the moment and treat new information and ideas with caution and scepticism. My rationality score was 66.67% – better than 70% of past users! A breakdown of my performance was also given. There was an option to share my results on Facebook which, irrationally or otherwise, I decided against.

Know with whom you are working

Now I'm wondering whether grievance procedures against my friend might never have been started if she knew the reasoning style and rationality score of her member of staff. Indeed, should a person's rationality style rank alongside their IQ and EQ (emotional quotient) when being considered as part of a team?

#unreason #balancedreporting #grievanceprocedures #alternativefacts #freerationalitytest #IQ #EQ

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