On reasoning

Oliver Burkeman on reasoning:

Lehrer cites the famous study in which people were asked to rate five jams previously rated by food experts. Non-experts ranked them the same as experts – except those who were asked to provide reasons, who diverged hugely, preferring jams that (according to expert opinion) were worse. Seemingly, they were casting about for convincing-sounding reasons – “Smoother jam is better”, say – which threw them from their instinctive preference for the jams everyone else agreed were best. If reasoning is about truth-finding, this is bewildering, but if it’s about generating fuel for persuasion, it makes sense. Rationalisation, from this perspective, isn’t a failure of reasoning. It’s what reasoning’s for.

This column will change your life: The power of persuasion. © Oliver Burkeman