Rationality and Learning

David Jones, a PhD student at The Australian National University, writes about the progress on his dissertation, which looks at how educational institutions constrain the implementation of e-learning initiatives. In his most recent post People, Cognition, Rationality, and E-Learning, he reviews some of the literature on the irrationality of human decision making and states:

At the level of the individual, there is significant research to indicate that people do not make rational decisions. It has been shown that when making decisions people rely on strategies such as rules of thumb and heuristics to simplify decisions, several of which suffer from systematic biases that influence judgement (Tversky and Kahneman 1974).

We usually assume that people are rational, but when you think about it, it's pretty obvious we aren't. Otherwise, we would come to similar conclusions most of the time, and, quite obviously, we don't. In fact, the old saying "Don't discuss politics or religion" underscores how Emotions Overrule Reason and moves us to ignore facts that contradict our position. And that also applies to experts, who predict no better than non-experts.

So, if we and our students are primarily not rational, how do we move ourselves and them to rationality? Should we? Does learning need to be a rational endeavor?