How We Reason

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Overview


Good reasoning can lead to success; bad reasoning can lead to catastrophe. Yet, it's not obvious how we reason, and why we make mistakes - so much of our mental life goes on outside our awareness. In recent years huge strides have been made into developing a scientific understanding of reasoning. This book by one of the pioneers of the field, Philip Johnson-Laird, looks at the mental processes that underlie our reasoning. It provides the most accessible account yet of the science of reasoning.

We can all reason from our childhood onwards - but how? 'How We Reason' outlines a bold approach to understanding reasoning. According to this approach, we don't rely on the laws of logic or probability - we reason by thinking about what's possible, we reason by seeing what is common to the possibilities. As the book shows, this approach can answer many of the questions about how we reason, and what causes mistakes in our reasoning that can lead to disasters such as Chernobyl. It shows why our irrational fears may become psychological illnesses, why terrorists develop 'crazy' ideologies, and how we can act in order to improve our reasoning. The book ends by looking at the role of reasoning in three extraordinary case histories: the Wright brothers' use of analogies in inventing their flyer, the cryptanalysts' deductions in breaking the German's Enigma code in World War II, and Dr. John Snow's inductive reasoning in discovering how cholera spread from one person to another.

Accessible, stimulating, and controversial, How we Reason presents a bold new approach to understanding one of the most intriguing facets of being human.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "No cognitive scientist has thought more deeply about human reasoning than Philip Johnson-Laird. In an amazingly comprehensive volume, he presents the fruits of a lifetime of experimentation and reflection. "--Howard Gardner, author of 'The Mind's New Science"


UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "'How We Reason' is the essential guide for anyone who wants to understand the human mind. Phil Johnson-Laird is both erudite and entertaining and his prose sparkles with wit and verve. This book paints a more complete picture of human thought than any other on inference. I couldn't put it down. "--Ruth M.J. Byrne Vice Provost, Trinity College Dublin, University of Dublin, Ireland, and Professor of Cognitive Science, School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin

UNEDITED UK REVIEW: "Philip Johnson-Laird's Mental Model Theory owes its outstanding impact on the psychology of reasoning to its unique breadth, insightfulness, and creativity. In 'How we Reason', Johnson-Laird has achieved the feat of presenting this challenging view of human thinking in a simple and yet comprehensive way, with concrete examples and elegant explanations. This highly readable book deserves a wide audience. "--Dan Sperber, Director of Research, CNRS, Paris

"Johnson-Laird gives fascinating accounts of some major examples of scientific reasoning, such as the Wright brothers' designing of the first successful airplane [and] how the codes underlying the Nazi Enigma machine were broken. "--Science


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198569763
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/14/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 584
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Phil Johnson-Laird was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1936. He left school at the age of 15 and spent ten years in a variety of occupations until he went to University College, London to read psychology. He later gained his Ph.D. there under the supervision of Peter Wason, and he joined the faculty in 1966. In 1971, he was a visiting member of the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, where he began a collaboration with George A. Miller. Subsequently, he held positions at the University of Sussex (1973-1981) and at the Medical Research Council's Applied Psychology Unit (1981-1989) in Cambridge, where he was also a Fellow of Darwin College. He returned to Princeton in 1989 to be a member of the faculty at the University, where he is the Stuart Professor of Psychology. His research concerns thinking, emotions, creativity, and music.

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Table of Contents


Introduction     1
The World in Our Conscious Minds
Icons and Images     21
Models of Possibilities: From Conjuring Tricks to Disasters     38
The World in Our Unconscious Minds
Mental Architecture and the Unconscious     51
Intuitions and Unconscious Reasoning     60
Emotions as Inferences     73
Reasoning in Psychological Illnesses     89
How We Make Deductions
Only Connections     105
I'm my own Grandpa: Reasoning About Identities and Other Relations     119
Syllogisms and Reasoning about Properties     136
Isn't Everyone an Optimist? The Case of Complex Reasoning     153
How We Make Inductions
Modulation: A Step Towards Induction     165
Knowledge and Inductions     174
Sherlock Holmes's Method: Abduction     185
The Balance of Probabilities     197
What Makes us Rational
Counterexamples     213
Truths, Lies, and the Higher Reasoning     231
How We Develop Our Ability to Reason
On Development     247
Strategies and Cultures     262
How We can Improve our Reasoning     279
Knowledge, Beliefs, and Problems
The Puzzles of If     295
Causes and Obligations     311
Beliefs, Heresies, and Changes in Mind     332
How we Solve Problems     350
Expert Reasoning in Technology, Logic, and Science
Flying Bicycles: How the Wright Brothers Invented the Airplane     369
Unwrapping an Enigma     387
On the Mode of the Communication of Cholera     402
How we Reason     414
Glossary     424
Notes on the Chapters     431
Acknowledgements     494
References     497
Name Index     545
Subject Index     557
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