Thinking and Reasoning 11 (4):349 – 381 (2005)

Two experiments examined the contribution of working memory (WM) to the retrieval and inhibition of background knowledge about counterexamples (alternatives and disablers, Cummins, 1995) during conditional reasoning. Experiment 1 presented a conditional reasoning task with everyday, causal conditionals to a group of people with high and low WM spans. High spans rejected the logically invalid AC and DA inferences to a greater extent than low spans, whereas low spans accepted the logically valid MP and MT inferences less frequently than high spans. In Experiment 2, an executive-attention-demanding secondary task was imposed during the reasoning task. Findings corroborate that WM resources are used for retrieval of stored counterexamples and that people with high WM spans will use WM resources to inhibit the counterexample activation when the type of counterexample conflicts with the logical validity of the reasoning problem.
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