Thinking and Reasoning 6 (4):273-311 (2000)

We report the results of three experiments designed to assess the role of suppositions in human reasoning. Theories of reasoning based on formal rules propose that the ability to make suppositions is central to deductive reasoning. Our first experiment compared two types of problem that could be solved by a suppositional strategy. Our results showed no difference in difficulty between problems requiring affirmative or negative suppositions and very low logical solution rates throughout. Further analysis of the error data showed a pattern of responses, which suggested that participants reason from a superficial representation of the premises in these arguments and this drives their choice of conclusion. Our second experiment employed a different set of suppositional problems but with extremely similar proofs in terms of the rules applied and number of inferential steps required. As predicted by our interpretation of reasoning strategies employed in Experiment 1, logical performance was very much higher on these problems. Our third experiment showed that problems that could be solved by constructing an initial representation of the premises were easier than problems in which this representation was not sufficient. This effect was independent of the suppositional structure of the problems. We discuss the implications of this research for theories of reasoning based on mental models and inference rules.
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DOI 10.1080/135467800750038148
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References found in this work BETA

Rationality in Reasoning: The Problem of Deductive Competence.Jonathan Evans & David E. Over - unknown - Current Psychology of Cognition 16 (1-2):3-38.
Cognitive Processes in Propositional Reasoning.Lance J. Rips - 1983 - Psychological Review 90 (1):38-71.
Mental Logic.Martin D. S. Braine & David P. O'brien - 2001 - Studia Logica 68 (2):297-299.

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Citations of this work BETA

Mental Models and Deduction.Philip N. Johnson-Laird - 2001 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 5 (10):434-442.
Recognition of Proofs in Conditional Reasoning.John Best - 2005 - Thinking and Reasoning 11 (4):326 – 348.

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