Reasoning from double conditionals: The effects of logical structure and believability

Thinking and Reasoning 4 (2):97 – 122 (1998)
Abstract
We report three experimental studies of reasoning with double conditionals, i.e. problems based on premises of the form: If A then B. If B then C. where A, B, and C, describe everyday events. We manipulated both the logical structure of the problems, using all four possible arrangements (or ''figures" of their constituents, A, B, and C, and the believability of the two salient conditional conclusions that might follow from them, i.e. If A then C , or If C then A . The experiments showed that with figures for which there was a valid conclusion, the participants more often, and more rapidly, drew the valid conclusion when it was believable than when it was unbelievable. With figures for which there were no valid conclusions, the participants tended to draw whichever of the two conclusions was believable. These results were predicted by the theory that reasoning depends on constructing mental models of the premises.
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