Strategies during complex conditional inferences

Thinking and Reasoning 6 (2):125 – 160 (2000)
In certain contexts reasoners reject instances of the valid Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens inference form in conditional arguments. Byrne (1989) observed this suppression effect when a conditional premise is accompanied by a conditional containing an additional requirement. In an earlier study, Rumain, Connell, and Braine (1983) observed suppression of the invalid inferences "the denial of the antecedent" and "the affirmation of the consequent" when a conditional premise is accompanied by a conditional containing an alternative requirement. Here we present three experiments showing that the results of Byrne (1989) and Rumain et al. (1983) are influenced by the answer procedure. When reasoners have to evaluate answer alternatives that only deal with the inferences that can be made with respect to the first conditional, then suppression is observed (Experiment 1). However, when reasoners are also given answer alternatives about the second conditional (Experiment 2) no suppression is observed. Moreover, contrary to the hypothesis of Byrne (1989), at least some of the reasoners do not combine the information of the two conditionals and do not give a conclusion based on the combined premise. Instead, we hypothesise that some of the reasoners have reasoned in two stages. In the first stage, they form a putative conclusion on the basis of the first conditional and the categorical premise, and in the second stage, they amend the putative conclusion in the light of the information in the second premise. This hypothesis was confirmed in Experiment 3. Finally, the results are discussed with respect to the mental model theory and reasoning research in general.
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Mental Models and Deduction.Philip N. Johnson-Laird - 2001 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5 (10):434-442.

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