For decades, policymakers and analysts have been frustrated by the stubborn and often dramatic disagreement between experts and the public on acceptable levels of environmental risk. Most experts, for instance, see no severe problem in dealing with nuclear waste, given the precautions and safety levels now in place. Yet public opinion vehemently rejects this view, repudiating both the experts' analysis and the evidence.
In Dealing with Risk, Howard Margolis moves beyond the usual "rival rationalities" explanation proffered by risk analysts for the rift between expert and lay opinion. He reveals the conflicts of intuition that undergird those concerns, and proposes a new approach to the psychology of persuasion and belief. Examining the role of intuition, mental habits, and cognitive frameworks in the construction of public opinion, this compelling account bridges the public policy impasse that has plagued controversial environmental issues.
In Paradigms and Barriers Howard Margolis offers an
innovative interpretation of Thomas S. Kuhn's landmark idea
of "paradigm shifts," applying insights from cognitive
psychology to the history and philosophy of science.
Building upon the arguments in his acclaimed Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition, Margolis suggests that the
breaking down of particular habits of mind—of critical
"barriers"—is key to understanding the processes through
which one model or concept is supplanted by another.
Margolis focuses on those revolutionary paradigm shifts—
such as the switch from a Ptolemaic to a Copernican
worldview—where challenges to entrenched habits of mind
are marked by incomprehension or indifference to a new
paradigm. Margolis argues that the critical problem for a
revolutionary shift in thinking lies in the robustness of the
habits of mind that reject the new ideas, relative to the
habits of mind that accept the new ideas.
Margolis applies his theory to famous cases in the history of
science, offering detailed explanations for the transition
from Ptolemaic to cosmological astronomy, the emergence of
probability, the overthrow of phlogiston, and the emergence
of the central role of experiment in the seventeenth century.
He in turn uses these historical examples to address larger
issues, especially the nature of belief formation and
contemporary debates about the nature of science and the
evolution of scientific ideas.
Howard Margolis is a professor in the Harris Graduate School
of Public Policy Studies and in the College at the University
of Chicago. He is the author of Selfishness, Altruism, and Rationality and Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition, both published by the University of Chicago
What happens when we think? How do people make judgments? While different theories abound—and are heatedly debated—most are based on an algorithmic model of how the brain works. Howard Margolis builds a fascinating case for a theory that thinking is based on recognizing patterns and that this process is intrinsically a-logical. Margolis gives a Darwinian account of how pattern recognition evolved to reach human cognitive abilities.
Illusions of judgment—standard anomalies where people consistently misjudge or misperceive what is logically implied or really present—are often used in cognitive science to explore the workings of the cognitive process. The explanations given for these anomalous results have generally explained only the anomaly under study and nothing more. Margolis provides a provocative and systematic analysis of these illusions, which explains why such anomalies exist and recur.
Offering empirical applications of his theory, Margolis turns to historical cases to show how an individual's cognitive repertoire—the available cognitive patterns and their relation to cues—changes or resists changes over time. Here he focuses on the change in worldview occasioned by the Copernican discovery: not only how an individual might come to see things in a radically new way, but how it is possible for that new view to spread and become the dominant one. A reanalysis of the trial of Galileo focuses on social cognition and its interactions with politics.
In challenging the prevailing paradigm for understanding how the human mind works, Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition is certain to stimulate fruitful debate.
Why do we volunteer time? Why do we contribute money? Why, even, do we vote, if the effect of a single vote is negligible? Rationality-based microeconomic models are hard-pressed to explain such social behavior, but Howard Margolis proposes a solution. He suggests that within each person there are two selves, one selfish and the other group-oriented, and that the individual follows a Darwinian rule for allocating resources between those two selves.
"Howard Margolis's intriguing ideas . . . provide an alternative to the crude models of rational choice that have dominated economics and political science for too long."—Times Literary Supplement