Winter 2014
Psychology 237: Human Rationality

Fridays, 2:00 - 5:00, Crick Conference Room (3rd floor, Mandler Hall)

Prof. Craig McKenzie Email: URL:

Overview: The traditional view of rationality is based upon abstract, content-independent, and largely context-independent rules for behavior. People sometimes violate these rules in a laboratory setting, but the violations are often systematic and appear to reflect adaptation to the environment outside the laboratory. Such findings raise questions about what it means to be rational. Readings will be empirically oriented and cover the areas of deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, and choice.

Requirements: Thoughtful reading and discussion are required. Participants must do the reading each week and come to class prepared to discuss it. Grades will be based on class participation. Short papers might also be required (in which case they will also influence grades).

Week 1: Overview I (Jan 10)

Shafir, E., & LeBoeuf, R. A. (2002). Rationality. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 491-517. [pdf]

McKenzie, C. R. M. (2005). Judgment and decision making. In K. Lamberts and R. L. Goldstone (Eds.), Handbook of Cognition (pp. 321-338). London: Sage. [pdf]

Week 2: Overview II (Jan 17)

Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Individual differences in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 645-726. [pdf]

Funder, D. C. (1987). Errors and mistakes: Evaluating the accuracy of social judgment. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 75-90. [pdf]

Week 3: Hypothesis Testing (Jan 24)

Wason, P. C. (1960). On the failure to eliminate hypotheses in a conceptual task. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 12, 129-140. [pdf]

Klayman, J., & Ha, Y.-W. (1987). Confirmation, disconfirmation, and information in hypothesis testing. Psychological Review, 94, 211-228. [pdf]

Week 4: The Selection Task (Jan 31)

Wason, P. C. (1968). Reasoning about a rule. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 20, 273-281. [pdf]

Oaksford, M., & Chater, N. (1994). A rational analysis of the selection task as optimal data selection. Psychological Review, 101, 608-631. [pdf]

Week 5: Covariation Assessment (Feb 7)

Smedslund, J. (1963). The concept of correlation in adults. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 4, 165-173. [pdf]

McKenzie, C. R. M., & Mikkelsen, L. A. (2007). A Bayesian view of covariation assessment. Cognitive Psychology, 54, 33-61. [pdf]

Week 6: Framing Effects (Feb 14)

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1986). Rational choice and the framing of decisions. Journal of Business, 59, 251-278. [pdf]

Sher, S., & McKenzie, C. R. M. (2006). Information leakage from logically equivalent frames. Cognition, 101, 467-494. [pdf]

Recommended: Sher, S., & McKenzie, C. R. M. (2008). Framing effects and rationality. In N. Chater & M. Oaksford (Eds.), The probabilistic mind: Prospects for Bayesian cognitive science (pp. 79-96). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [pdf]

Week 7: Joint-Separate Reversals (Feb 21)

Hsee, C. K. (2000). Attribute evaluability and its implications for joint-separate evaluation reversals and beyond. In D. Kahneman and A. Tversky (Eds.), Choices, values, and frames (pp. 543-563). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. [pdf]

Sher, S., & McKenzie, C. R. M. (in press). Options as information: Rational reversals of evaluation and preference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. [pdf]

Week 8: Ecological Rationality (Feb 28)

Gigerenzer, G., & Goldstein, D. G. (1996). Reasoning the fast and frugal way: Models of bounded rationality. Psychological Review, 103, 650-669. [pdf]

Chater, N., Oaksford, M., Nakisa, R., & Redington, M. (2003). Fast, frugal, and rational: How rational norms explain behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 90, 63-86. [pdf]

Week 9: Bayes Skeptics (Mar 7)

Jones, M., & Love, B. C. (2011). Bayesian Fundamentalism or Enlightenment? On the explanatory status and theoretical contributions of Bayesian models of cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34, 169-231. [pdf]

Bowers, J. S., & Davis, C. J. (2012). Bayesian just-so stories in psychology and neuroscience. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 389-414. [pdf]

Week 10: Rationality, Intelligence, and Rules (Mar 14)

Dreyfus, H. L. (1992). What computers still can't do: A critique of artificial reason. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Introduction to the revised edition, pp. 1-66) [pdf]