Causal Reasoning

Causal reasoning is the ability to recognize that one set of events is systematically related to a subsequent set of events. This kind of thinking is often used to understand a complex problem that has no simple answers. Research on how causal reasoning occurs has brought two conclusions. First, people subconsciously gather statistical information from the environment and make subtle calculations to determine whether or not a relationship exists. Second, people assume a relationship exists if they can think of a credible causal mechanism that combines the cause and effect.

Mental Maps

Humans and animals have the ability to recognize familiar locations and objects, predict the results of actions and paths, and act with respect to their surrounding environment. In an attempt to explain these complex mental processes, the theory of cognitive mapping has been proposed.

Inhibition of Actions

The ability to consciously plan an action and subsequently carry out that action is characteristically human. Human action involves selection, not only between alternative courses of action, but also between action and inaction. The ability to inhibit action is crucial in society because it allows people to analyze the consequences of actions before acting, as well as suppress actions that could produce undesirable results.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to favor information that confirms one's beliefs, while disregarding or downplaying information that opposes one's beliefs. This can occur through biased searches, faulty interpretation, or selective memorization of evidence. Confirmation bias can be a significant problem during arguments, as it leads to overconfidence in one's beliefs and can stand in the way of compromise. Recent studies have shown that when shown information in a sequential order rather than simultaneously, participants were more susceptible to confirmation bias.

Distinguishing truth from lies

Distinguishing truth from lies is an important ability for maintaining individual and community safety. However, "a substantial empirical base shows that laypeople and even trained investigators (e.g. police) are often poor at discriminating between liars and truth tellers." Aldert Vrij suggests that this deficiency is due to a passive approach to lie detection. Observers often look for verbal discrepancies or non-verbal cues rather than actively attempting to manipulate the situation to identify liars.

Better Motivated by Autonomy, Mastery and Making a Contribution in Cognitive Skill-driven Tasks

People who work with the intention of mastering a skill or for the purpose of making a contribution are more motivated to do well. Additionally, people who study or work independently are more determined to achieve and so they become far more productive. Evidence shows that people who take the initiative to learn something themselves (proactive learners) learn more than people who are passively taught by teachers (reactive learners).

Minds, Goals, Desires and Beliefs

Belief and desire are considered the essential mental states required to comprehend another person’s behavior. Experiments were devised to test whether children's difficulty with false belief or the ability to understand others' behavior and motives, can be explained by "desire's dominance over belief." The experiments found no correlation between understanding of desires and beliefs, suggesting that understanding of desire requires different cues than understanding of belief.


Grief is a response to loss. Sigmund Freud's paper "Mourning and Melancholia" famously regarded grief as a removal of emotional energy from an individual after a loss. Notably, "anger is a part of grieving. It can bring about cycles of violence, which can become self-perpetuating," if help is not provided. Improvement in counseling and a reduction of the stigma of receiving counseling should help global leaders and other citizens of the world access treatment and channel their grief away from violent reactions.


Fear is an important response for survival as it "motivates avoidance and escape." The ability to assess danger and to remove oneself from a dangerous environment is integral for one's survival. This is accomplished in humans through many different methods of learning, such as conditioning, which were developed through complex evolutionary processes. Neurologically, the "fear module" is said to be driven by the amygdala. This system is quite well developed in humans because the relationship between stimulus and response is capable of being varied.

Theory of Mind

Theory of mind is the ability to attribute beliefs and knowledge to oneself and others, as well as comprehend that others can possess a very different understanding of the world than oneself. In order to develop theory of mind, one must understand how knowledge is formed, that people's beliefs are based on their individual knowledge, and that behavior can be predicted by a person's state of knowledge. Normally-developing children are mostly unable to pass theory of mind tests until around the age of four.


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