What should default reasoning be, by default?

This is a position paper concerning the role of empirical studies of human default reasoning in the formalization of AI theories of default reasoning. We note that AI motivates its theoretical enterprise by reference to human skill at default reasoning, but that the actual research does not make any use of this sort of information and instead relies on intuitions of individual investigators. We discuss two reasons theorists might not consider human performance relevant to formalizing default reasoning: (a) that intuitions are sufficient to describe a model, and (b) that human performance in this arena is irrelevant to a competence model of the phenomenon. We provide arguments against both these reasons. We then bring forward three further considerations against the use of intuitions in this arena: (a) it leads to an unawareness of predicate ambiguity, (b) it presumes an understanding of ordinary language statements of typicality, and (c) it is similar to discredited views in other fields. We advocate empirical investigation of the range of human phenomena that intuitively embody default reasoning. Gathering such information would provide data with which to generate formal default theories and against which to test the claims of proposed theories. Our position is that such data are the very phenomena that default theories are supposed to explain.
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