How do we reason about innateness?

Innate knowledge has been the topic of fierce debate throughout the entire history of ideas. Why is innateness such a hard problem? Could the blame partly lie within the human inquirer?

Recent results from our lab suggests that people are systematically biased when they reason about innateness (Berent, Platt and Sandoboe, in press, Open Mind). This bias is quite selective. People have no difficulties recognizing that sensorimotor capacities and emotions are innate. But when it comes to ideas, or principles of knowledge (e.g., “objects are cohesive”), people exhibit some curious biases, and these biases can be directly traced to innate knowledge itself.

Our lab explores the consequences of innate knowledge in reasoning about a large number of areas, including how people think about “cold” concepts and “hot” emotions, how we reason about affective and cognitive disorders, why we are so irrationally enamored with our brains, and what we think about free will and the afterlife.