4.1 Analytic thinking
Dual-process theories of reasoning and decision making distinguish between intuitive (“Type 1”) processes that are autonomously cued and reflective (“Type 2”) processes that are effortful, typically deliberative, and require working memory (Evans & Stanovich, 2013). A crucial finding that has emerged from the dual-process literature is that the ability to reason involves a discretionary aspect (Stanovich, 2011; Stanovich & West, 2000); a distinction that has long historical precedent (Baron, 1985). Namely, to be a good reasoner, one must have both the capacity to do whatever computation is necessary (i.e., cognitive ability, intelligence) and the willingness to engage deliberative reasoning processes (i.e., analytic cognitive style; thinking disposition). Moreover, individual differences in analytic cognitive style are positively correlated with conflict detection effects in reasoning research (Pennycook, Cheyne, Barr, Koehler & Fugelsang, 2014; Pennycook, et al., 2015), indicating that more analytic individuals are either better able to detect conflict during reasoning or are more responsive to such conflict. Consistent with Sagan’s (1996) argument that critical thinking facilitates “baloney detection”, we posit that reflective thinking should be linked to bullshit receptivity, such that people who are better at solving reasoning problems should be more likely to consider the specific meaning of the presented statements (or lack thereof) and judge failure to discern meaning as a possible defect of the statement rather than of themselves. In other words, more analytic individuals should be more likely to detect the need for additional scrutiny when exposed to pseudo-profound bullshit. More intuitive individuals, in contrast, should respond based on a sort of first impression, which will be inflated due to the vagueness of the pseudo-profound bullshit. Analytic thinking is thus the primary focus of our investigation, as it is most directly related to the proposed ability to detect blatant bullshit.
I first encountered the "reflective reasoning tests" when working at the the highly prestigious "Amazon Mechanical Turk", taking academic surveys and competing with people in India on writing assignments. (the pay for both was AMAZING! lol)
My "gut instinct" was to treat the "reflective reasoning" questions (a bat and a ball, a lilypad, widget machines) as "trick questions", by virtue of how they were awkwardly inserted into the tests. I actually had to get a pen and paper out to figure out the bat and ball one for sure. :P