Is it Irrationality or Is It Skepticism?
Discussions of the paper Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government have been going around the blogosphere. It is an example of a common line of psychological research:
- Researchers give experimental subjects made-up data.
- The subjects recognize the data as fabricated and ignore it.
- The researchers cite this as evidence of irrationality.
But wait, there's more. It turns out that the most numerate subjects were the least “rational” (or most skeptical). For some reason, the psychologists engaged in their own version of motivated reasoning in interpreting this.
Once again, I'm reminded of a Robert Heinlein quote from Methuselah's Children:
Ford slapped the report on a stack cluttering his old-fashioned control desk. The dumb fools! Not to recognize a negative report when they saw one-yet they called themselves psychographers!Sigh…