Is It All About Winning?

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What happens when two people disagree with each other? One possibility is that they each marshal evidence for their side of the argument, review each other’s evidence, and come to a rational conclusion about what’s right. But a recent analysis of adults’ reasoning capacities suggest that this isn’t the case. Instead, we have a suite of reasoning biases that encourages us to only consider our side of things and to stick to our guns despite contrary evidence. So our main goal in an argument is to win it, not to actually discover the right answer. Now, a new review of the evidence suggests that even children possess the same argumentative capacities as adults, and for the same reason: because their main goal is to persuade, not to find the truth. This may come as no surprise to parents of small children, but it does suggest that our adult ways of interacting with each other have very early origins.