Nathaniel Barr continues to find his Reasons

Photo: Nathaniel Barr

In a recently released chapter entitled “Why Reason Matters: Connecting Research on Human Reason to the Challenges of the Anthropocene,” Prof. Nathaniel Barr and his colleague Gordon Pennycook provide evidence to show why advancing and applying the study of how people think, believe, and behave should be considered an urgent global priority.

The chapter synthesizes a large body of research to reveal how the study of human reason is related to the most pressing challenges of our time.

Their review shows that issues which threaten our well-being and existence—like climate change, pollution, economic and social disruption due to emerging technologies, political polarization, misinformation and fake news, inequality, and large scale conflict—are deeply connected to research on human morality, belief, creativity, cooperation, and technology use.

“In the Anthropocene, an era of the planet defined by human impact, the mind is related to both the causes of and solutions to our biggest challenges.” says Nathaniel. “The questions of how to use technology in a way that maximizes human ability and welfare, how to foster creativity, how to promote ethical and sustainable behaviour, and how to unite people of diverse beliefs to encourage cooperation, all demand answers in this globalized and technologically advanced age. The study of human reason and its applications hold great promise in this pursuit.”

While their chapter shows the work in this area to be fruitful, the authors believe more can be done. On the basis of their review, it is concluded that to aid our species’ continued survival and success, greater investment is needed in both basic research and applications that leverage insights and methods from psychological science in education, business, and policy.

The chapter appears in the book, The New Reflectionism in Cognitive Psychology, and an associated essay was published online at Quartz.