On the Cognitive Bases of Knowledge Ascriptions

In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), Knowledge Ascriptions. Oxford University Press (2012)
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I develop an epistemic focal bias account of certain patterns of judgments about knowledge ascriptions by integrating it with a general dual process framework of human cognition. According to the focal bias account, judgments about knowledge ascriptions are generally reliable but systematically fallible because the cognitive processes that generate them are affected by what is in focus. I begin by considering some puzzling patters of judgments about knowledge ascriptions and sketch how a basic focal bias account seeks to account for them. In doing so, I argue that the basic focal bias account should be integrated in a more general framework of human cognition. Consequently, I present some central aspects of a prominent general dual process theory of human cognition and discuss how focal bias may figure at various levels of processing. On the basis of this discussion, I attempt to categorize the relevant judgments about knowledge ascriptions. Given this categorization, I argue that the basic epistemic focal bias account of certain contrast effects and salient alternatives effects can be plausibly integrated with the dual process framework. Likewise, I try to explain the absence of strong intuitions in cases of far-fetched salient alternatives. As a manner of conclusion, I consider some methodological issues concerning the relationship between cognitive psychology, experimental data and epistemological theorizing.

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Mikkel Gerken
University of Southern Denmark


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