Hugo Mercier’s blog

Hugo writes mainly about cognitive psychology – in particular reasoning – with the occasional foray into cultural phenomena.

Blatant bias and blood libel

Biases are, arguably, experimental psychology’s best export. Many a psychologist has built a successful career exploring, cataloguing, and attempting to explain the myriad biases supposed to plague human cognition (for a taste, see this Wikipedia list).

This is not a healthy development. It has helped spread a reign of error in psychology, fed by ‘gotcha experiments’ suggesting that humans are broadly irrational and quite a bit dumber than, say, rats. On the contrary, human cognition is extraordinarily efficient and adaptive—not to pat ourselves in the back too much, but, cognitively, we’re pretty dope. With a keen sense of irony, Gerg Gigenrenzer, one of the stalwarts of human rationality, has decried a bias bias that mistakes adaptive heuristics for biases.

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Blind imitation or a matter of taste?

For some varieties of cassava, complete detoxification is an effortful, complex, unintuitive process. Joe Henrich famously argued that the practice could only spread through blind, conformist imitation. But what if cassava just tastes better that way?

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[This post was co-written by Hugo Mercier and Olivier Morin]

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Cultural variation in the mitigation of moral judgments

A few weeks back, Clark Barrett and his colleagues published a fascinating piece in PNAS in cultural variations in moral judgments. They found wide cultural variation in the factors people take into

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The origin of fairy tales

Over at The Atlantic, Ed Young has a very good write up of some work done by Sara Graça da Silva and Jamie Tehrani on the origins of folktales. The researchers have used

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Relationship Thinking

Nick Enfield -- ethnolinguist at the Max Planck institute for psycholinguistics (and contributor to ICCI) -- has published a new book, Relationship Thinking. Here's the blurb from Oxford

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