The logic of content effects in propositional reasoning: The case of conditional reasoning with a point of view

Thinking and Reasoning 9 (4):335 – 378 (2003)
In order to resolve the controversial discussion regarding content effects in deductive reasoning, we propose distinguishing between two inferential sources—an argument's form , and additional relations people associate with the argument's content —and analysing their interplay. Both sources are equally necessary in order to understand the role content plays in deductive reasoning. People make valid deductions from the content relations ( content competence ), but in thematic reasoning tasks, these deductions lead to the intriguing phenomenon known as content effects . Focusing on the interplay of both sources of inferences, the dual source distinction enables a novel class of predictions to be made, namely the correct mastery of the logical connectors ( form competence ) in tasks that require the individual to think about an argument's form in relation to its content. To illustrate the dual source approach and its implications, the selection task paradigm of conditional reasoning with a point of view is used in combination with two content domains: conditional promises with cheating and non-cheating perspectives and technical systems with causal perspectives. Experimental findings corroborate all three phenomena: content competence, content effects, and form competence. The dual source distinction is discussed with regard to current theories of reasoning.
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