Friday, 17 September 2010
Why Fluent Explanations Feel Truth-y
J.D. Trout, Visiting Scholar (CPS)
Loyola University of Chicago, Department of Philosophy and Psychology
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning
Abstract: Some professional philosophers of science, and I’d venture nearly all laypeople, suppose that good explanations have a psychological quality: they feel truth-y, and that feels good. While the coinage of truthiness awaited Stephen Colbert, the concept has a long pedigree in the study of explanation (some of which is documented in Trout (2002, 2007, and 2008). I will present a contrarian account, one that does not treat the sense or phenomenology of explanatory understanding as a reliable indicator of good explanation. I account for the spell cast by this counterfeit cue by surveying the research highlights of the psychology of perceptual and cognitive fluency, and the neuroscience of liking and wanting. I close with a discussion of empirical evidence that suggests how we might break this spell, by using disfluency to provoke a deliberate, analytic problem-solving strategy.