Stanovich on Conflict and Critical Thinking

Well, actually the Hitchcock review of Stanovich:

What types of people succeed in overriding interactional intelligence in conflict situations? As one might expect, subjects with greater cognitive ability (as measured by SAT Total scores) were more likely to do so. But so were those with the dispositions characteristic of an ideal critical thinker: even after controlling for differences in cognitive ability, reasoning performance correlated with degree of open-mindedness and epistemic flexibility (cultivating reflectiveness rather than impulsivity, seeking and processing information that disconfirms one’s belief, being willing to change one’s beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence). Further, these dispositions tended to cut across different domains.

For those unfamiliar with Stanovich, his model of the mind rewrites the typical intuition/logic model with a intuitive mind/algorithmic mind/reflective mind model. The main implication is that intelligence is not enough — in practice, many people who are highly intelligent have dispositions that shirk from the hard work of interrogating intuitions, and use rationality only to confirm gut instinct. For Stanovich, intelligence and rationality are related but separable terms. 

I like the model, though I’m still slogging through his work, and probably don’t grasp the details fully (the above is surely a simplification, and possibly wrong). What it gets at, by empirically demonstrating the gap between cognitive power and the ability and drive to interrogate intuitions, is a version of “critical thinking” that might actually mean something useful…


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