Quick and Dirty Mental Operations

HPSC-H 241 — Fall 2021

Leah Savion
Course Description

Human survival depends on effective gathering of huge amounts of information, adequate processing, fast learning, and controlling the environment to secure predictability and adjustment. Our brain selects what to attend to, categorize and integrate perceptual input, makes inferences, establishes emotional and physical reactions to environmental cues, and activating all other systems (affective, behavioral, and physiological) with staggering speed and efficiency. These cognitive feats are executed extremely quickly and accurately with the help of mental short cuts called “heuristics”.

          The concept of cognitive heuristics has caught on fire recently, infiltrating areas such as economics, music, ethics, social behavior, perception, problem solving, legal reasoning, categorization, rationality, mental health, attention and learning, and even some self-help literature. This course presents students with an opportunity to investigate this highly useful theoretical construct: from conceptual analysis to theoretical and pragmatic applications, the role of heuristics in organizational principles such as economy and equilibrium, culminating in self-awareness as complex, often irrational, and always slightly biased cognitive agents.