Departments

Cognitive psychology 1/5

So pervasive have the claims of cognitive psychology become, so often do I encounter the rhetoric in which the introductory anecdote takes the form of a cognitive psychology experiment, that I find it necessary to decide just what I think of it, and where I stand. I do so best by doing so publicly.

I admire cognitive psychology. It is the most coherent and fruitful paradigm in psychology. The nosology of biases, by itself, might be the greatest act of thinking about thinking since the Greek achievement of logic.

Of course, like logic, the doctrine of biases is subject to misuse – the more so because it is new and we have little experience of its limitations. In logic, the spirit of catching out logical fallacies trivializes itself in the principle of the fallacy of fallacies – the error of assuming that because an argument is fallacious, its conclusion is wrong. Now, because biases are innate, but the recognition of biases is acquired, the use in argument of accusations of bias cannot be closed by a neat “bias of biases”; but something equivalent is required to avoid the error of rejecting conclusions not because they are wrong, but because they are biased – which, in itself, is no argument.

Biases are everywhere. But the very pervasiveness of cognitive psychology risks creating a new bias – a meta-bias, a confusion between biased and wrong.