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Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality$
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Dylan Evans and Pierre Cruse

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780198528975

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198528975.001.0001

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Adaptive illusions: optimism, control, and human rationality

Adaptive illusions: optimism, control, and human rationality

(p.193) Chapter 10 Adaptive illusions: optimism, control, and human rationality
Emotion, Evolution, and Rationality


Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the relationship between emotions and deliberative rationality. It argues that there are evolutionary reasons to think that emotions are in some cases likely systematically to skew rationality. Standard models of rationality assume that the mind is able to come to accurate assessments of the probability of future contingencies. However, robust evidence shows that people systematically overestimate the probability of positive future contingencies, and underestimate the probability of negative ones — only those who are depressed or dysphoric come to accurate assessments. The chapter argues that there are good evolutionary reasons why this should be the case, since there is an asymmetric pattern of costs and benefits from getting motivational judgements wrong.

Keywords:   adaptive illusions, optimism, human rationality, deliberative rationality, future contingencies, costs and benefits

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