Strategies in temporal reasoning

Thinking and Reasoning 6 (3):193 – 219 (2000)
Abstract
This paper reports three studies of temporal reasoning. A problem of the following sort, where the letters denote common everyday events: A happens before B. C happens before B. D happens while B. E happens while C. What is the relation between D and EEfficacylls for at least two alternative models to be constructed in order to give the right answer for the right reason (D happens after E). However, the first premise is irrelevant to this answer, and so if reasoners were to ignore it, then they would need to construct only one model. Experiment 1 showed that one-model problems were answered faster and more accurately than multiple-model problems. When the question preceded the premises in the statement of the multiple-model problems there was a slight tendency for the latencies of response to speed up in the predicted way. Experiment 2 modified the procedure, in part by using practice problems with many irrelevant premises, so that reasoners might grasp the advantage of ignoring them. Its results showed that when the premises preceded the question, the multiple-model problems were significantly harder than one-model problems. But when the question was presented first, the difference was significantly reduced in line with the theory's prediction. Experiment 3 used only problems with valid conclusions (i.e., one-model problems and multiple-model problems), and so the construction of multiple models was never necessary. However, there was still a significant difference between one-model problems and multiple-model problems.
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