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Bayesian Rationality The probabilistic approach to human reasoning by Mike (Professor of Psychology and Head of School, Birkbeck College London, UK) Oaksford, Nick (Professor of Cognitive a Chater


Bayesian Rationality The probabilistic approach to human reasoning by Mike (Professor of Psychology and Head of School, Birkbeck College London, UK) Oaksford, Nick (Professor of Cognitive a Chater

Are people rational? This question was central to Greek thought and has been at the heart of psychology and philosophy for millennia. This book provides a radical and controversial reappraisal of conventional wisdom in the psychology of reasoning, proposing that the Western conception of the mind as a logical system is flawed at the very outset. It argues that cognition should be understood in terms of probability theory, the calculus of uncertain reasoning, rather than in terms of logic, the calculus of certain reasoning.


This fascinating book is the capstone of one of the most important and original programs of research on reasoning in the last twenty years. Oaksford and Chater argue persuasively that human thinking is best understood not in terms of how poorly it approximates the philosopher's norms of deductive logic, but rather in terms of how well it captures the more powerful and subtle principles of Bayesian probability. * Professor Josh Tenenbaum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA * For years, Oaksford and Chater have taken a maverick approach to the analysis of human reasoning, applying probabilistic ideas to construct radically new interpretations of what people are doing when they reason and whether or not those actions are rational. The field has started to follow Oaksford and Chater's lead; probabilistic concepts are becoming central to all areas of cognitive science. In this book, Oaksford and Chater offer an exceptionally lucid and compelling introduction to their own work and in the process provide an accessible introduction to a number of technical issues in reasoning. This book is a must for those interested in the latest theoretical ideas in the study of human reasoning. * Professor Steve Sloman, Brown University, USA * Oaksford and Chater convincingly argue that rationality in the real world cannot be reduced to logical thinking and demonstrate how apparently logical problems can instead be reconstructed in a probabilistic way. This is an important step towards the ultimate goal of understanding the heuristic mechanisms underlying behavior. An excellent book on a Bayesian approach to cognition. * Professor Gerd Gigerenzer, Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Germany * Oaksford and Chater have been at the center of a major reconceptualization of how humans reason. This book explains the deep reasons for this new approach and provides an excellent summary of their work. * Professor John R. Anderson, Carnegie Mellon University, USA * Oaksford and Chater make a very strong case in favour of a probabilistic view of human reasoning. This publication in therefore highly recommended to any cognitive psychologists, and particularly to master's or doctoral students doing research in this field. * The Psychologist, *

About the Author

Mike Oaksford is Professor of Psychology and Head of School at Birkbeck College London. He was a research fellow at the Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh, he was then lecturer at the University of Wales, Bangor, and senior lecturer at the University of Warwick, before moving to Cardiff University in 1996 as Professor of Experimental Psychology, a post he held until 2005. His research interests are in the area of human reasoning and decision making. In particular, with his colleague Nick Chater, he has been developing a Bayesian probabilistic approach to deductive reasoning tasks. According to this approach reasoning biases are the result of applying the wrong normative model and failing to take account of people's normal environment. He also studies the way the emotions affect and interact with reasoning and decision making processes. Nick Chater is Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences at University College London. He has an M.A. in Psychology from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Cognitive Science from Edinburgh. He has held academic appointments at Edinburgh, Oxford, and Warwick Universities. His research focussed on attempting to find general principles that may be applicable across many cognitive domains, ranging from reasoning and decision making, to language acquisition and processing, to perception and categorization. Since the late 1980s, in collaboration with Mike Oaksford, he has been interested in the application of probabilistic and information-theoretic methods for understanding human reasoning.

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Book Info

Publication date

22nd February 2007


Mike (Professor of Psychology and Head of School, Birkbeck College London, UK) Oaksford, Nick (Professor of Cognitive a Chater

More books by Mike (Professor of Psychology and Head of School, Birkbeck College London, UK) Oaksford, Nick (Professor of Cognitive a Chater
Author 'Like for Like'


Oxford University Press


352 pages


Intelligence & reasoning
Experimental psychology
Philosophy: logic
Philosophy of mind



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