Psychologist making pseudo-claim that recent works "compromise the Bayesian point of view"

by [anonymous] 8y18th Jul 201117 comments


I have recently been corresponding with a friend who studies psychology regarding human cognition and the best underlying models for understanding it. His argument, summarized very briefly, is given by this quote:

Lastly, there has been a huge amount of research over the last two decades that shows human reasoning is 1) entirely constituted by emotion, and that it is 2) mostly unconscious and therefore out of our control. A lot of this research has seriously compromised the Bayesian point of view. I am referring to work done by Antonio Damasio, who demonstrated the essential role emotion plays in decision making (Descartes' Error), Timothy Wilson, who demonstrated the vital role of the unconscious (Strangers to Ourselves), and Jonathan Haidt, who demonstrated how moral reasoning is dictated by intuition and emotion (The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail). I could go on and on here. I assume that you are familiar with this stuff. I'd just like to know how you who respond to this work from the point of view of your studies (in particular, those two points). I don't mean to get in a tit for tat debate here, just want the other side of the story.

I am having trouble synthesizing a response that captures the Bayesian point of view (and is sufficiently backed up by sources so that it will be useful for my friend rather than just gainsaying of the argument) because I am mostly a decision theory / probability person. Are these works of psychology and neuroscience really illustrating that human emotion governs decision making? What are some good neuroscience papers to read that deal with this, and how do Bayesians respond? It may be that everything he mentions above is a correct assessment (I don't know and don't have enough time to read the books right now), but that it is irrelevant if you want to make good decisions rather than just accept the types of decisions we already make.