Do reasoning limitations undermine discourse?

Thinking and Reasoning 24 (1):97-116 (2018)
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Why does discourse so often seem shallow, with people arguing past one another more than with one another? Might contributing causes be individual and logical rather than only dialogical? We consider here whether there exist errors in reasoning that could be particularly damaging in their effects on argumentive discourse. In particular, we examine implications for discourse of two such errors – explanation as a replacement for evidence and neglecting the likelihood of multiple causes contributing to an outcome. In Studies 1 and 2, we show these errors to be prevalent in a cross section of adults, as well as samples of community college students and young adolescents, with minimal age-related improvement. They also occur, although less frequently, among a sample of highly educated adults, and in Study 3, we examine their role in the discourse of college-educated adults. We point finally to evidence that these individual reasoning errors are potentially addressable through education.



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