Matching bias in conditional reasoning: Do we understand it after 25 years?

Thinking and Reasoning 4 (1):45 – 110 (1998)
The phenomenon known as matching bias consists of a tendency to see cases as relevant in logical reasoning tasks when the lexical content of a case matches that of a propositional rule, normally a conditional, which applies to that case. Matching is demonstrated by use of the negations paradigm that is by using conditionals in which the presence and absence of negative components is systematically varied. The phenomenon was first published in 1972 and the present paper reviews the history of research and theorising on the problem in the subsequent 25 years. Theories of matching bias considered include those based on several broad frameworks including the heuristic-analytic theory, the mental models theory, the theory of optimal data selection, and relevance theory as well as the specific processing-negations account. The ability of these theories to account for a range of phenomena is considered, including the effects of linguistic form, realistic content, and explicit negation on the matching bias effect. Of particular importance are recent findings showing that the bias is observable on a wider range of linguistic forms than has generally been thought, and that it is almost entirely dependent on the use of implicit negation in the logical cases to which rules are applied. The reasons for the general suppression of matching when realistic content is used are, however, unclear and a need for further research is identified here. It is concluded that matching bias is a highly robust effect which is closely connected with the problem of understanding implicit negation. Most of the theories in the literature are unable to account for at least some of the major phenomena discovered in research on the bias. The accounts that fare best are those that posit local effects of negation, including the heuristic-analytic and processing negations theories.
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DOI 10.1080/135467898394247
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