The Science of Misunderstanding: How Our Brains are Programmed to Make Mistakes.
For centuries it was believed that human reasoning was distinguished by logical thinking, clarity, and general accuracy. More recent studies have shown that human reasoning is in fact characterised by repeated mistakes, errors and wrongheadedness. It is argued that reasoning errors are often side-effects of otherwise useful mental shortcuts that have been used in the wrong way. While such concepts are useful, they do not quite explain how audiences often find bogus information to be much more attractive than accurate information. It may even be the case that our tendency to make frequent mistakes has given us a considerable evolutionary advantage. This talk will look at biological, evolutionary, and socio-cultural research on how our tendency to misunderstand can help us, both as individuals and as a society. We will also look at research which suggests some unexpectedly negative effects of enhanced logical reasoning, on both mental and physical health.
Our speaker, Dr. Brian Hughes, is the director for the Centre for Research on Occupational and Life Stress (CROLS) in NUI Galway. He is the author of The Science Bit blog, where he writes frequently about science, pseudoscience and scepticism. He holds Ph.D. and B.A. degrees in psychology from NUI Galway, and an Ed.M. degree in public science education from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He served as founding Head of the Psychology Department at Dublin Business School and as President of the Psychological Society of Ireland (2004-2005).
The Ask for Evidence Campaign
Sense About Science is a UK charity that works with scientists, the public and the media to challenge misinformation, whether about the age of the earth, the causes of cancer, wifi radiation or homeopathy for malaria. This is often very effective but no sooner is attention turned elsewhere than misleading claims creep back up again. Sense about Science run campaigns and produce documents to help equip people to make sense of evidence themselves, but to make a permanent difference, they need more members of the public to be evidence hunters. That’s why they launched a national campaign, Ask for Evidence, to encourage consumers, voters and patients to scrutinise every claim they see and to give people who come across dubious scientific claims somewhere to go with their questions. Organisations that seek to persuade people to try treatments or cures should expect questions about their evidence.
Cork native, Síle Lane is Campaigns Manager at Sense About Science. She joined Sense About Science in February 2009 from a career in stem cell research. Síle works with regulatory bodies, civic society organisations, patient groups, medical research charities, the media and policy makers in the UK to ensure the public always has access to the best science and evidence. Since June 2009 Síle has run the Keep Libel Laws out of Science campaign which this year led to the UK Government bringing forward legislation to reform the libel laws to protect scientific and medical discussion. Síle became Campaigns Manager in 2011 and is developing a new dedicated campaigns unit to popularise our approach to standing up for science, including launching a national campaign to Ask for evidence.
The talk will start at 8.00pm, on Saturday November 26th (please note that this is a change from our usual Friday night schedule). It is free to attend, and all are welcome. For directions to Blackrock Castle, see our Skeptics In The Castle information page.
We hope to see you there!