Folk Theories of Sound Judgement

This project, led by Igor Grossmann, concerns exploration of a theoretical framework accommodating the notion of rationality advocated in neoclassic economics and political science with the Aristotelian notion of practical wisdom, as well as the notion of reasonable judgment discussed by legal philosophers such as Rawls. The core question is how lay people understand these concepts and whether their intuitive understanding corresponds to any of the distinct philosophical positions. Over many studies involving linguistic analyses of large-scale text corpora, behavioral experiments, and surveys, Grossmann’s team has observed that people represent intellectual virtues by accommodating two distinct standards of judgmental competence: a standard of rationality that corresponds to economists’ definition of decontextualized rational self-interest, and a standard of reasonableness that corresponds to philosophical traditions encouraging context-specific balance of self-interest with fairness. For instance, experiments show that concerns for rationality and reasonableness lead people to different conclusions about what constitutes good judgment in dilemmas that pit self-interest against fairness: Rationality is absolute and self-maximizing, whereas reasonableness pays attention to particulars and fairness. Currently, the team aims to expand this framework theoretically, providing the first synthesis of ideas from distinct streams of behavioral and decision sciences, and to test implications of this framework in real life (e.g., by developing intergroup hostility reduction techniques via framing other party’s actions as irrational vs. unreasonable)