10 July 2017 – 11 July 2017

Communication, reasoning, and social epistemology

International conference

Conference website (internal link)

Humans are reliant upon testimony for much of what we know (Goldberg 2010). However, for cultural knowledge to be reliable, what we learn from others must also be evaluated – and without ‘epistemic vigilance’ we are liable to lapse into systematic reasoning errors (Evans & Over 1997). The cognitive mechanisms that we use for this are partly innate (Sperber et al. 2010), but reasoning skills are also learned (Luria 1976). While even young children show discrimination in evaluating what others tell them (Harris 2012; Stoeber, Moore & Tomasello, submitted), we are not always good at assessing the truth of what we are told. The possible influence of ‘fake news’ in the recent US presidential election, and the successful use of propaganda and inflammatory rhetoric in elections on both sides of the Atlantic testifies to the ways in which our reasoning and judgement can be led astray.

This interdisciplinary (Philosophy and Psychology) two-day conference, to be hosted by the Berlin School of Mind and Brain at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, will consider the cognitive science of testimony, reasoning, and social learning. The first day of talks will be devoted to discussions of the role of dialogue and social learning in the development of human reasoning. One the second day, we will discuss the nature of the biases that influence our learning from testimony, the ways in which our epistemic dependence on others makes us vulnerable to exploitation, and the ways in which this vulnerability might be resisted.