Abstract for Koralus’ talk

It is a remarkable fact that we make seemingly irrational choices in systematic ways, amply documented in the experimental literature. It is an equally remarkable fact that we are capable of systematically rational decisions. An explanation of the nature of human decision-making that gives equal weight to these facts is elusive. I propose that we can make sense of these facts as the result of a cognitive strategy of raising questions and answering them in the most direct way. I have argued elsewhere that when made formally precise, this model can explain successes and failures in reasoning (Koralus and Mascarenhas 2014). Rational inferences result from a kind of “erotetic equilibrium,” in which further questions will not change the conclusion in the absence of external influences. I sketch how to extend this model to decision-making as the erotetic theory of decision (ETD). I suggest that we could make sense of various irrational decision patterns as instances of what I call “illusory reasons,” analogous to so-called “illusory inferences” in reasoning. Illusory reasons disappear if the right kinds of questions are raised in making a decision.

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