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Reasoning and Decision Making


Module description

The module introduces you to the main normative theories in these areas, ie logic, probability theory, and expected utility theory. We will explore some of the empirical literature that apparently shows that people's actual reasoning and decision making does not match up to these normative standards, thus apparently questioning human rationality.

You will consider a range of responses to these findings, including, new normative analyses, descriptive models like prospect theory, and dual process theories. The module will illustrate how these processes are influenced by the emotions and individual differences and how they have been investigated in cognitive neuroscience using a range of imaging techniques.

    Indicative module content

    • Logic and computation
    • Probability and judgement
    • Conditional reasoning
    • Induction and data selection
    • Quantified reasoning
    • Rational choice and decision trees
    • Decision, irrational choices and prospect theory
    • Intertemporal choice
    • Strategic games
    • Neuroeconomics

      Learning objectives

      By the end of this module, you should be able to:

      • articulate the rudiments of logic, probability theory, and rational choice theory, ie the difference between valid and invalid arguments, the difference between a semantic and epistemic approach, contradictions and Dutch book arguments, expected utility calculations
      • describe the range of biases and violations of these normative theories that have been documented in psychology and their possible implications for human rationality and for human affairs more generally, ie for the law, mental health, and interpersonal communication
      • understand the rudiments of how these cognitive processes are affected by the emotions, how they vary within the population and how they might be implemented in the human brain
      • acquire better thinking and reasoning skills to aid further study and better practical reasoning and decision making in the real world.