When can young children reason about an exclusive disjunction? A follow up to Mody and Carey (2016)

Cognition 207 (C):104507 (2021)
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Abstract

Mody and Carey (2016) investigated children's capacity to reason by the disjunctive syllogism by hiding stickers within two pairs of cups (i.e., there is one sticker in cup A or B, and one in cup C or D) and then showing one cup to be empty. They found that children as young as 3 years of age chose the most likely cup (i.e., not A, therefore choose B; and disregard C and D) and suggested that these children were representing the dependent relationship between A and B by applying the logical operator “or”. However, it is possible that children succeeded using simpler strategies, such as avoiding the empty cup and choosing within the manipulated pair. We devised a new version of the task in which a sticker was visibly removed from one of the four cups so that 2.5- to 5-year-old children (N = 100) would fail if they relied on such strategies. We also included a conceptual replication of Mody and Carey's (2016) original condition. Our results replicated their findings and showed that even younger children, 2.5 years of age, could pass above chance levels. Yet, 2.5-, 3- and 4-year-olds failed the new condition. Only 5-year-old children performed above chance in both conditions and so provided compelling evidence of deductive reasoning from the premise “A or B", where “or” is exclusive. We propose that younger children may instead conceive of the relationship between A and B as inclusive “or” across both versions of the task.

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