The Case for REASZON™

Technology and society are changing faster than ever.  That’s why employers, recruiters, and schools are all searching for people who are especially good at figuring out new ways of doing things, and drawing conclusions from new bodies of information — they are looking for people who are good at what we call “critical reasoning”.  Unfortunately, the tools that these organizations currently use to search for such people are not designed to identify them.  Those tools are instead designed to identify people who read quickly, or who have a good memory, or who know a lot about specific domains.  REASZON™ is the first test that provides an accurate, unbiased assessment of a test-taker’s critical reasoning ability, and it does so at a small fraction of the cost of current assessments.

Decades of research in cognitive psychology (beginning with the Nobel-prize winning work of Kahnemann and Tversky in the late 70’s and early 80’s) have shown that human behavior is controlled by two distinct cognitive Systems.  “System 1” arrives at verdicts quickly, effortlessly, and unreflectively, and it is well-adapted to help primates like us survive in an evolutionary environment that presents a narrow range of familiar, life-threatening challenges (e.g., how to escape or defeat dangerous predators):  it is consequently inflexible and designed for caution rather than maximal accuracy.  “System 2”, in contrast, arrives at verdicts slowly, deliberatively, and reflectively, and it is well-adapted to help us think through how to respond to novel challenges, and how to modify our responses as we gain new information:  it is consequently flexible and designed to self-correct in order to achieve accuracy.  As humans have built an environment that provides them with greater safety from life-threatening challenges, they face an increasing variety of novel challenges.  Instead of having to find food sources or escape from predators, our challenge now is to find ways of adding value in an environment that is constantly changing in unpredictable ways.  Because we are safe from the challenges that faced our evolutionary ancestors, System 1 is less important than ever.  But because we are confronted with a rapidly changing set of novel challenges, System 2 is more important than ever.  Consequently, many people today are interested in training their System 2 skills, and in evaluating the System 2 skills of people all over the world who are applying to study with them, or work for them.  This interest in the assessment and improvement of System 2 has created today’s industry in training and testing critical reasoning skills, since critical reasoning is just the operation of System 2.

Stanovich, West, and Toplak have recently identified roughly two dozen parameters of critical reasoning ability and have also designed measures for ability along these various parameters.  But the parameters that they identify are all manifestations of three fundamental abilities: (1) deductive reasoning, (2) pattern-recognition, and (3) distinguishing relevant from irrelevant information within a problem space.  This reduction of parameters matters to the effort to build an accurate measure of critical reasoning skills, since it is much easier to construct a measure over a space with 3 dimensions than it is to construct a measure over a space with two dozen dimensions.  REASZON™ is the first example of the former kind of measure.  It assesses a test taker’s ability to reason deductively, recognize patterns, and distinguish information that’s relevant to answering a particular question from information that’s not relevant.  And it is the only assessment to measure these abilities in a way that’s completely insensitive to those features of the test taker that vary independently of critical reasoning ability – for instance, the test taker’s reading ability, memory, or background knowledge.  

(Stanovich, K. E., West, R. F., & Toplak, M. E. (2016). The rationality quotient: Toward a test of rational thinking. MIT Press.)