Rethinking deductive tasks: Relating interpretation and reasoning through individual differences

Stenning, Keith and Cox, Richard (2006) Rethinking deductive tasks: Relating interpretation and reasoning through individual differences. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 59 (8). pp. 1454-1483. ISSN 1747-0218

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Abstract

Computational theories of mind assume that participants interpret information and then reason from those interpretations. Research on interpretation in deductive reasoning has claimed to show that subjects' interpretation of single syllogistic premises in an immediate inference task is radically different from their interpretation of pairs of the same premises in syllogistic reasoning tasks (Newstead, 1989, 1995; Roberts, Newstead, & Griggs, 2001). Narrow appeal to particular Gricean implicatures in this work fails to bridge the gap. Grice's theory taken as a broad framework for credulous discourse processing in which participants construct speakers' intended models of discourses can reconcile these results, purchasing continuity of interpretation through variety of logical treatments. We present exploratory experimental data on immediate inference and subsequent syllogistic reasoning. Systematic patterns of interpretation driven by two factors (whether the subject's model of the discourse is credulous, and their degree of reliance on information packaging) are shown to transcend particular quantifier inferences and to drive systematic differences in subjects' subsequent syllogistic reasoning. We conclude that most participants do not understand deductive tasks as experimenters intend, and just as there is no single logical model of reasoning, so there is no reason to expect a single fundamental human reasoning mechanism.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Originality: Human reasoners show different response patterns when they intepret single logical premises compared to when they reason deductively about pairs of similar premises in syllogistic reasoning tasks. This study goes beyond traditional (e.g. psychometric) accounts of this difference by showing, in detail, the nature of individual differences in participants' performance on various reasoning tasks. It is shown that they differ in terms their credulity and their sensitivity to 'information packaging'.Rigour:Methodology was to identify, through analysis of error patterns using logistic regression, types of individual who are either 'rash' or 'hesitant' in their inferences when they attempt to solve categorical syllogisms. It is concluded that most participants do not understand deductive tasks as experimenters intend, and just as there is no single logical model of reasoning, so there is no reason to expect a single fundamental human reasoning mechanism.Significance: A significant piece of research in which an information processing (cognitive science) approach to the study of individual differences is adopted. Individual difference research such as this, in which performance-modelling approaches are used, are very rare in the human reasoning literature.
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Depositing User: Richard Cox
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 19:30
Last Modified: 19 Jun 2012 13:03
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/20935
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