Cognitive Science 24 (4):573-604 (2000)

A substantial body of evidence shows that people tend to rely too heavily on explanations when trying to justify an opinion. Some research suggests these errors may arise from an inability to distinguish between explanations and the evidence that bears upon them. We examine an alternative account, that many people do distinguish between explanations and evidence, but rely more heavily on unsubstantiated explanations when evidence is scarce or absent. We examine the philosophical and psychological distinctions between explanation and evidence, and show that participants use explanations as a substitute for missing evidence. Experiment 1 replicates the results of other researchers, but further shows that participants generate more evidence when they are not constrained by their lack of data. Merely mentioning a source of data can alter both their evaluation (Experiment 2) and their production (Experiment 3) of explanations and evidence. In Experiment 4, we show that participants can explicitly consider the availability of evidence and other pragmatic factors when evaluating arguments. Finally, we consider the implications of using explanations to replace missing evidence as a strategy in argument.
Keywords explanation  informal reasoning  evidence
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DOI 10.1207/s15516709cog2404_2
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References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
The Uses of Argument.Stephen E. Toulmin - 1958 - Cambridge University Press.
Explanatory Coherence (Plus Commentary).Paul Thagard - 1989 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12 (3):435-467.

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Citations of this work BETA

Why Do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentative Theory.Dan Sperber - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2):57.
Conditionals, Causality and Conditional Probability.Robert van Rooij & Katrin Schulz - 2019 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 28 (1):55-71.
The Structure and Function of Explanations.Tania Lombrozo - 2006 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (10):464-470.
Intuitive and Reflective Inferences.Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber - 2009 - In Keith Frankish & Jonathan St B. T. Evans (eds.), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford University Press. pp. 149--170.

View all 29 citations / Add more citations

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