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Dysrationalia: Why Children Need to be Taught Thinking Skills


Some time back, I wrote about Edward de Bono’s book – Teach Your Child How to Think – and why it is important to teach children how to think (please note that teaching a child how to think is not the same as teaching a child what to think). Recently, I stumbled a new concept called Dysrationalia which is another reason why children need to be taught thinking skills.

What is Dysrationalia?

It is the inability to think and behave rationally despite having adequate intelligence. Even individuals with high IQ scores can suffer from dysrationalia because traditional IQ tests miss some of the most important aspects of real-world decision making. – Scientific American

What are the causes of Dysrationalia?

  • Being a cognitive miser – taking the easy way out when trying to solve problems, often leading to solutions that are wrong.
  • Myside bias or Cognitive Bias – the tendency to evaluate evidence, generate evidence, and test hypotheses from an egocentric perspective (a bias towards one’s own opinions).
  • Mindware gap – lacking the specific knowledge, rules and strategies needed to think rationally.

The Problem of Dysrationalia

The fundamental problem with dysrationalia is the lack of awareness that it exists. As a result, the knowledge and thinking styles that result in dysrationalia are often not picked up until later in life. Many intelligent children may go through school without ever being taught probabilistic thinking, scientific reasoning, and other thinking strategies – opening them up to the mindware gap.

Overcoming Dysrationalia

It has been suggested that dysrationalia is a new specific learning disability. Pretty soon there will even be an RQ test to assess rational thinking. Can anything be done to overcome this disability? Yes. Rational thinking can be taught and we should focus on it as a part of our children’s education. We need to teach children thinking strategies such as basic statistical and scientific thinking, and more general thinking strategies.

Cognitive misers:

  • Look, don’t leap: try not to say the first thing that pops into your  head  and avoid what psychologists call “impulsively associative thinking.”
  • Think of the opposite: Several studies have shown that practicing the simple strategy of triggering the thought ‘think of the opposite’ can help prevent a host of thinking errors.

Myside bias:

  • Be conscious of your emotions and how they might be affecting your decisions. In “Teach Your Child How to Think“, Edward de Bono talks about the role of emotions, feelings and intuition in decision making – how to make them work for you, not against you. This is the Red Hat in de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

Midware gap:

  • Teaching children thinking skills like those from Edward de Bono’s “Teach Your Child How to Think” can help children learn to overcome the pitfalls of faulty thinking. If we can arm our children with appropriate thinking strategies, perhaps they will be likely to suffer from dysrationalia.


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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