Dysrationalia is defined as the inability to think and behave rationally despite adequate intelligence. The concept of dysrationalia was first proposed by psychologist Keith Stanovich in the early 1990s. Stanovich classifies dysrationalia as a learning disability and characterizes it as a difficulty in belief formation, in assessing belief consistency, or in the determination of action to achieve one's goals. This concept has not gone unchallenged, however. Special education researcher Kenneth Kavale notes that dysrationalia may be more aptly categorized as a thinking disorder rather than a learning disability, because it does not have a direct impact upon academic performance. Further, psychologist Robert Sternberg argues that the construct of dysrationalia needs to be better conceptualized: it lacks a real theory (explaining why people are dysrational and how they become this way) and operationalization (how dysrationalia could be measured). Sternberg also notes that the concept has the potential for misuse, as one may label another as dysrational simply because he or she does not agree with the other person's view. Stanovich has replied to both Kavale and Sternberg. He has elaborated on the dysrationalia concept in a later book.
Sternberg has edited a book in which the dysrationalia concept is extensively discussed. In a recent volume, Stanovich has provided the detailed conceptualization that Sternberg called for in his earlier critique. In that book, Stanovich shows that variation in rational thinking skills is surprisingly independent of intelligence. One implication of this finding is that dysrationalia should not be rare.
- Stanovich, K.E. (1993). "Dysrationalia: A new specific learning disability." Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26(8), 501–515.
- Stanovich, K.E. (1994). "An exchange: Reconceptualizing intelligence: Dysrationalia as an intuition pump." Educational Researcher, 23(4), 11–22.
- Kavale, K.A. (1993). "How many learning disabilities are there? A commentary on Stanovich's 'Dysrationalia: A new specific learning disability.'" Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26(8), 520–523.
- Sternberg, R.J. (1994). "What if the construct of dysrationalia were an example of itself?" Educational Researcher, 23(4), 22–23, 27.
- Stanovich, K.E. (1993). It's practical to be rational. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26, 524–532.
- Stanovich, K.E. (1994). The evolving concept of rationality: A rejoinder to Sternberg. Educational Researcher, 23(7), p. 33.
- Stanovich, K.E. (2004). The Robot's Rebellion: Finding Meaning in the Age of Darwin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Sternberg, R.J. (Ed.). (2002). Why smart people can be so stupid. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Stanovich, K.E. (2009). What intelligence tests miss: The psychology of rational thought. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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