The nature of thinking, shallow and deep



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Because the criteria for success differ across various domains of life, no single normative standard will ever work for all types of thinking. One method for dealing with this apparent dilemma is to propose that the mind is made up of a large number of specialized modules. This review describes how this multi-modular framework for the mind overcomes several critical conceptual and theoretical challenges to our understanding of human thinking, and hopefully clarifies what are (and are not) some of the implications based on this framework. In particular, an evolutionarily informed “deep rationality” conception of human thinking can guide psychological research out of clusters of ad hoc models which currently occupy some fields. First, the idea of deep rationality helps theoretical frameworks in terms of orienting themselves with regard to time scale references, which can alter the nature of rationality assessments. Second, the functional domains of deep rationality can be hypothesized (non-exhaustively) to include the areas of self-protection, status, affiliation, mate acquisition, mate retention, kin care, and disease avoidance. Thus, although there is no single normative standard of rationality across all of human cognition, there are sensible and objective standards by which we can evaluate multiple, fundamental, domain-specific motives underlying human cognition and behavior. This review concludes with two examples to illustrate the implications of this framework. The first example, decisions about having a child, illustrates how competing models can be understood by realizing that different fundamental motives guiding people’s thinking can sometimes be in conflict. The second example is that of personifications within modern financial markets (e.g., in the form of corporations), which are entities specifically constructed to have just one fundamental motive. This single focus is the source of both the strengths and flaws in how such entities behave.


Citation: Brase GL (2014) The nature of thinking, shallow and deep. Front. Psychol. 5:435. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00435


Normative models, Cognitive modularity, Deep rationality, Evolutionary psychology, Human reasoning, Time scales in rational decision making