Eristic reasoning: Adaptation to extreme uncertainty


Heuristics (shortcut solution rules) can help adaptation to uncertainty by leading to sufficiently accurate decisions with little information. However, heuristics would fail under extreme uncertainty where information is so scarce that any heuristic would be highly misleading for accuracy-seeking. Thus, under very high levels of uncertainty, decision-makers rely on heuristics to no avail. We posit that eristic reasoning (i.e., self-serving inferences for hedonic pursuits), rather than heuristic reasoning, is adaptive when uncertainty is extreme, as eristic reasoning produces instant hedonic gratifications helpful for coping. Eristic reasoning aims at hedonic gains (e.g., relief from the anxiety of uncertainty) that can be pursued by self-serving inferences. As such, eristic reasoning does not require any information about the environment as it instead gets cues introspectively from bodily signals informing what the organism hedonically needs as shaped by individual differences. We explain how decision-makers can benefit from heuristic vs. eristic reasoning under different levels of uncertainty. As a result, by integrating the outputs of formerly published empirical research and our conceptual discussions pertaining to eristic reasoning, we conceptually criticize the fast-and-frugal heuristics approach, which implies that heuristics are the only means of adapting to uncertainty.

Frontiers Psychology
Marc Jekel
Marc Jekel
Post-Doctoral Researcher (Akademischer Rat)

My research interests include coherence-based reasoning, artificial neural networks, information distortion, and methods.