Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

By and large, our cognition is a truth-tracking device. There is much evidence that people’s cognition can be optimal in many circumstances. Non-conventional forms of cognition, such as conspiracist ideation and belief in the paranormal, are considered less suited as a reality-tracking device. We suggest that actual conspiracies are preferentially identified by conventional cognition, whereas non-existent conspiracies that are the objects of conspiracy theories fall within the domain of conspiracist cognition. We explore the implications of this suggestion through an analysis of President Donald Trump’s Twitter discourse.

By and large, our cognition is a truth-tracking device. There is now much evidence and theorizing that supports the notion that people’s cognition can be considered “optimal” in many circumstances. That is, human performance has frequently been shown to conform to Bayes Theorem, the acknowledged normative gold standard for how to update prior beliefs in light of new evidence (Chater, Tenenbaum & Yuille 2006; Knill & Pouget 2004). Even in remarkably esoteric tasks, such as estimating the duration of the reign of Egyptian Pharaohs, people’s performance has been found to be finely attuned to the actual statistical properties of the environment (Griffiths & Tenenbaum 2006; Lewandowsky, Griffiths & Kalish 2009).


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