PHILOSOPHY 145, Paul Thagard, 2003

I. The Portfolio, Part I. 2003.

A. The first part of the portfolio is due Feb. 13. Expected length is around 4 pages (typed). It should include examples of eleven different error tendencies.

B. Each entry in your portfolio should have roughly the following structure:

1. Description of a real life example, taken from newspapers, magazines, TV, discussion with friends, or whatever. You can use numerous examples unrelated to each other, or discuss a number of related examples from the same domain.

2. Analysis of the example in terms of the error tendencies discussed in class and the textbooks. Your analysis should show how the key concepts apply to the example and provide some insight into the kind of reasoning error that you have noticed. The error tendencies should be taken from the lectures notes.

C. Late penalty: 10% per week. Penalty for plagiarism (using the work of others): course grade of F.

II. Exam 1, 2003.

The exam will be Jan. 30 in class. It will have 3 kinds of questions:

1. Given examples, identify in 1 or 2 sentences the kinds of error tendencies that may be present.

2. Short answer: explain some particular error tendencies, or the relation between 2 or more. You need to understand the error tendencies listed in the lecture notes, and also understand fundamental concepts such as: hot versus cold cognition, descriptive versus normative, heuristics and biases, motivated inference, representativeness. The most important general point to grasp is how useful cognitive processes can lead to error tendencies that can be overcome by error correction strategies. Many of the questions will be taken from the review questions below.

3. Short essay: topic to be determined. Here is a question from a previous exam:

Imagine you have just been hired by a company that produces shoddy clothes to create advertisements that will increase sales. How can you use your knowledge of people's error tendencies to develop effective advertising? Give examples. How can people best protect themselves against your advertising techniques?

III. Review Questions for Exam 1, 2003. Updated Jan. 13.

Gilovich, ch. 2:

1. Why do people think that sports players can have a "hot hand"?

2. What is the clustering illusion?

3. How does representativeness bias statistical judgments?

4. Why do people prefer causal to statistical theories?

5. Should two very intelligent people expect their children to have intelligence greater than, less than, or equal to their own?

6. What is the regression effect? What is the regression fallacy?

Gilovich, ch. 3:

1. What is confirmation bias? Why are people prone to notice and seek confirming instances?

2. How have arguments about free trade between Canada and the U.S. exhibited confirmation biases?

3. On what basis should universities accept students as undergraduates and graduate students? On what basis should they evaluate their acceptance criteria?

4. When do self-fulfilling prophecies arise?

Gilovich, ch. 4.

1. When is it appropriate to be biased against scientific claims?

2. How does ambiguity encourage bias?

3. Are scientists rational? By what is their rationality bounded?

4. Are we more likely to remember our successes or our failures? How do we remember them?

Gilovich, ch. 5.

1. Do you know any people whose beliefs are derived from their personal motivations?

2. Why do most people think they are above average?

3. What cognitive mechanisms underlie self-serving beliefs? Which of these mechanisms are "cold" (purely cognitive) and which are "hot" (tied in with motivation and emotion?

4. Do people believe whatever they want to believe? How does Ziva Kunda's research bear on this question?

5. Should we treat beliefs like possessions?

Gilovich, ch. 6.

1. What constitutes a good story?

2. How does immediacy increase the effectiveness of a message?

3. How can motivation distort communication?

Gilovich, ch. 7

1. What is the false consensus effect?

2. Why is the feedback we get from others often inaccurate?

3. What is the difference between the false consensus effect and pluralistic ignorance?

Schick, ch. 3

1. Why do people perceive what they expect to perceive?

2. Are memories exact copies of what happens to us?

3. How can people be misled by vague prophecies?

Schick, ch. 5

1. Is appeal to an expert always fallacious?

2. What sources of information are reliable? What sources are unreliable?


Updated Jan. 13, 2003

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