Does everyone love everyone? The psychology of iterative reasoning

Thinking and Reasoning 10 (1):31 – 53 (2004)
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Abstract

When a quantified premise such as: Everyone loves anyone who loves someone, occurs with a premise such as: Anne loves Beth, it follows immediately that everyone loves Anne. It also follows that Carol loves Diane, where these two individuals are in the domain of discourse. According to the theory of mental models, this inference requires the quantified premise to be used again to update a model of specific individuals. The paper reports four experiments examining such iterative inferences. Experiment 1 confirmed that they are harder than immediate inferences. Experiment 2 extended the finding to negative inferences, i.e., granted that Anne does not love Beth, it follows from the quantified premise that Carol does not love Diane. Experiment 3 established that intermediate steps referring to specific individuals are accepted more readily than intermediate steps referring to quantified variables. Experiment 4 showed that the participants' written justifications corroborated the model theory.

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Peder Johnson
University of New Mexico