"Elementary My dear Watson"-A project on Reason By Patrick smith

Patrick Smith

Antoine Clocher, Ansar Eshonkulov

February 22nd- March 2nd

WOK Badge: Reason


Journal Entries:

2/24/17: We have selected reasons our WOK and hope to do something truly special. We have also decided to use "Are humans instinctively rational?" as our essential question that we would like to explore. We found this interesting, as we know that every human has the capacity to reason, but is this instinctive? Is our initial reaction to reason through any problem that we face? Or do we instinctively act irrationally? Hopefully we will be able to find some sort of experiment or test in order to find a solution to our question. We hypothesize that humans are indeed instinctively rational, as we have evolved past the other animal species, and logic and reason must be our crutch.

2/28/17: We have decided on our experiment. We will ask people the Monty Hall question and record their response before we have explained the logic behind it and after we have explained the logic behind it. This way we will be able to gauge their instinctive response to the question. The monty hall question was a problem published in a magazine and created in 1975. The problem is this:Suppose you're on a game show, and you're given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what's behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, "Do you want to pick door No. 2?" Is it to your advantage to switch your choice? The answer is rather counterintuitive which is what makes it great to measure our instinctive rationality. It is to you your advantage to swap doors, as there is a 2/3s chance that the goat is in the other door compared to the 1/3 chance that it is in the door that you had initially chosen. This is because when you select your door there is a 1/3 chance that the car is behind that door.

The other two doors then have a collective 2/3 chance that the car is behind that door.

The gameshow host then opens the other door revealing the goat. The two doors still have a collective chance of 2/3 that the car is behind one of the doors.

Because we can see that there is a goat behind one of the door, we can definitively say that the car is not behind that door. This means there is a 0% chance the car is behind that door. This does not make it a 50/50 chance between the two remaining doors, as the two other doors still have a collective 2/3s chance that the car is behind them. Because the car is definitely not behind the open door with the goat, there is a 2/3s chance that the car is behind the other door you did not choose.

This may seem counterintuitive but mathematically it is sound. This problem is perfect as it is hard to reason out and quite hard. It also allows us to ask the motive behind a decision.

2/30/17: We have conducted our interviews . We asked 4 people the monty hall problem and then asked for an explanation behind their decision. Here is a transcript of the interviews:

The Interviews:

Eden Before Explanation: It is not beneficial, I’d stick with my gut because there’s a 1 in 3 chance I get it right.

Eden After Explanation: Yes because ⅔ of a chance is higher odds, and I think it’s reasonable, but there’s still a chance you miss the car.

Greg Before Explanation: I would not change my decision as it’s my core principle to stay with my first decision, I do this on the SATs and stuff. Just go with your gut and you should be right.

Greg After Explanation: I would NEVER change my answer because of my principles, but I do understand the logic of why it’s more beneficial to switch.

Cesar Before Explanation: Because they opened the third door, they are suggesting I was right on my first try, so I would stick to my original choice.

Cesar After Explanation: I would switch the door as there’s a higher chance that the car is behind the other door.

Kaelin Before Explanation: I don’t think I’d switch my answer b/c 1 you should never second guess yourself 2 maybe the fact that he wanted to change the door was some sort of mind game with me, meaning that I’m right.

Kaelin After Explanation: If we’re not taking into account of how counterintuitive it is, I would definitely change my answer from a mathematical standpoint.

2/30/17(Continued): These responses contradict our initial hypothesis as, to an extent, as instinctively people were not Rational. Most people went with their “Gut” when faced with the complex Monty Hall question. However, when we explained it to them, they changed their answer, showing that, to an extent, humans are Rational.

Required Readings:

Chapter 6 of the TOK Textbook

IB TOK Subject Guide on Reason

Elective Readings:

Discourse on Method by Renee Descartes

The Dragon in my Garage by Carl Sagan

Human Irrationality is a Fact, not a Fad by David Berreby

Elective Reading Journal:The Dragon in my Garage by Carl Sagan

This elective reading is a story created by Carl Sagan in the form of a Youtube video. The story starts with the assertion that a "Fire-Breathing Dragon" inhabits the narrator's garage. After checking out the narrator's garage, we cannot see the dragon. The Narrator then tells us that the dragon is invisible. We suggest we spread flour on the floor, in order to see its footprints, but the barrator replies that the dragon can fly. We suggest thermal imaging to detect the fire, but the Narrator then informs us that the invisible fire is heatless and thus cannot be detected with our thermal cameras. This series of suggestion then counter goes on and on, with the narrator constantly disproving our methods for detecting the dragon, rendering the suggestions useless. The video then asks "What is the difference between this invisible, heatless and undetectable dragon in the Narrator's garage, and no dragon at all?" This entire story is an example used by Carl Sagan, that the inability to invalidate a hypothesis, does not mean the hypothesis is true. If this was a single person, The narrator then goes on to say that "what if many people believed they had an invisible, detectable dragon in their garage?". These people would then start finding evidence, like a footprint, or a burn, but never can produce this evidence in front of a sceptic. Despite many people believing that there are undetectable dragons in their garages, the only sensible approach is to reject the theory, and be open to future data, and wonder why so many sober people could be under the influence of the same strange delusion. This story is clearly a metaphor for religion. This "common Delusion" cannot be proven and yet more and more people believe, simply due to the inability to disprove it. I find this point the most important. Simply because you can't disprove something does not make that something true. This a logical fallacy, lack of disproof makes something real.

Extension Reading: The New Yorker, Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds by Elizabeth Kolbert

Extension Reading Journal: This article describes several experiments that test reason. One exxperiment that is especially pertinent to our own project is one carried out by two cognitive scientists from Europe, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber of the French research institute of Lyon and the Central European University in Budapest. In this experiment students were asked to solve various reasoning problems,and explain them. They were also given the chance to switch their answers if they spotted mistakes, the large majority refused to do so and only 15% actually revised their answers. The researchers then showed them the solution and also the answers of other students, but these answers were actually their own. Only around half the students realized. The researchers then repeated the experiment. They found that the students became much more critical and over 60% of students rejected their new responses. While their experiment differs from ours, as their's seeks to find out the affects of cooperation on human logic and ours seeks to test how Instinctively rational humans are. Despite this, their experiment does serve to verify our results, as in their experiment the participants refused to swap their answers, providing stronger evidence to support the claim that "Humans are not instinctively Rational". Their experiment also served as inspiration for our own, as we decided to use the logical, conundrum of the Monty Hall Problem to test our hypothesis.

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