Evidence for mental-model-based reasoning: A comparison of reasoning with time and space concepts

Thinking and Reasoning 2 (4):249 – 272 (1996)
Johnson-Laird (1983) has argued that spatial reasoning is based on the construction and manipulation of mental models in memory. The present article addresses the question of whether reasoning about time relations is constrained by the same factors as reasoning about spatial relations. An experiment is reported that explored the similarities and the differences in the performance of subjects in comparable spatial and temporal reasoning tasks. The results indicated that, in both the temporal and the spatial content domains, the data were in agreement with the view that subjects solved problems by constructing models in memory rather than with a logical rule conceptualisation of reasoning. An analysis of the premise-reading times on the basis of premise-linking order provided support for an on-line process of mental models construction, and offered an explanation for the finding that spatial problems that did require an inference of transitivity were easier than problems that did not. No essential differences in processing and performance were observed across the two content domains, although in the time domain the correctness data were in agreement with both the mental models theory and the logical rules view. The results are discussed with respect to the mental models theory and the structural characteristics of the problems.
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