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How We Reason
     

How We Reason

by Philip Johnson-Laird
 

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,

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.

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


Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199551330
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/15/2009
Pages:
584
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

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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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