Rationally irrational: When people do not correct their reasoning errors even if they could.

Miroslav Sirota, Marie Juanchich, Dawn L. Holford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Why is it that sometimes people do not correct their reasoning errors? The dominating dual-process theories of reasoning detail how people (fail to) detect their reasoning errors but underspecify how people decide to correct these errors once they are detected. We have unpacked the motivational aspects of the correction process here, leveraging the research on cognitive control. Specifically, we argue that when people detect an error, they decide whether or not to correct it based on the overall expected value associated with the correction—combining perceived efficacy and the reward associated with the correction while considering the cost of effort. Using a modified two-response paradigm, participants solved cognitive reflection problems twice while we manipulated the factors defining the expected value associated with correction at the second stage. In five experiments (N = 5,908), we found that answer feedback and reward increased the probability of correction while cost decreased it, relative to the control groups. These cognitive control critical factors affected the decisions to correct reasoning errors (Experiments 2 and 3) and the corrective reasoning itself (Experiments 1, 4 and 5) across a range of problems, feedbacks, types of errors (reflective or intuitive), and cost and reward manipulations pre-tested and checked in five separate studies (N = 951). Thus, some people did not correct their epistemically irrational reasoning errors because they followed the instrumentally rational principle of the expected value maximization: They were rationally irrational.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2052-2073
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: General
Issue number7
Early online date27 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Open Access funding provided by University of Essex: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0). This license permits copying and redistributing the work in any medium or format, as well as adapting the material for any purpose, even commercially

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s)


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