Evan Schapiro

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Robert Ricketts

Second Advisor

Jeremy Szteiter


At least partially fueled by misinformation, political polarization is growing in the United States, leading to a breakdown of confidence in our traditional academic and political institutions. A popular belief is that a solution is to train people to think more rationally by eliminating the cognitive biases embedded in their subconscious thought patterns. This paper identifies the influences on my thinking and the framework used to look at these issues from a different perspective through methodological believing and the application of models of learning and conversation. The paper also points out that the methods of scientific inquiry often assume that problems have single knowable answers where objective truth is incontrovertible. However, many real-world problems include randomness, which can lead even rational thinkers to draw incorrect conclusions in some circumstances. Through this analysis, I suggest that cognitive biases should not be classified as flaws, but rather understood as pragmatic mechanisms that humans rely on for allocating limited cognitive bandwidth, and for prioritizing focus to balance the tradeoffs between accuracy and efficiency that most individuals face in their daily lives. The goal of this paper is not to propose solutions, but rather to identify a framework for a greater understanding of others, and for beginning to explore additional solutions. While education on rationality and information literacy are important tools to combat misinformation, I believe that additional tools and approaches are also needed.