Johnson-Laird's mental models theory claims that reasoning is a semantic process of construction and manipulation of models in working memory of limited capacity. Accordingly, both a deduction and a given interpretation of a premise would be all the harder the higher the number of models they require. The purpose of the present experiment was twofold. First, it aimed to demonstrate that the interpretation of if...then conditional sentences in children (third, sixth, and ninth graders) evolves as a function of the number (...) of models the children can produce. We proposed a theory of conditional reasoning development that hypothesises a developmental trend of three successive levels of interpretations underlain by one, two, and then three models, i.e. conjunctive, biconditional, and conditional respectively. Second, we aimed to show that these different levels correlate with working memory capacities: the higher the working memory span, the higher the number of models underlying the conditional interpretation. These two hypotheses were verified, supporting the mental models theory. The results are compared with the rival theory of mental logic. (shrink)
Three-to-five-year-old French children were asked to add or remove objects to or from linear displays. The hypothesis of a universal tendency to represent increasing number magnitudes from left to right led to predict a majority of manipulations at the right end of the rows, whatever children's hand laterality. Conversely, if numbers are not inherently associated with space, children were expected to favour laterality-consistent manipulations. The results showed a strong tendency to operate on the right end of the rows in right-handers, (...) but no preference in left-handers. These findings suggest that the task elicited a left-to-right oriented representation of magnitudes that counteracted laterality-related responses in left-handed children. The young age of children and the lack of a developmental trend towards right preference weaken the hypothesis of a cultural origin of this oriented representation. The possibility that our results are due to weaker brain lateralisation in left-handers compared to right-handers is addressed in Discussion section. (shrink)
As stressed by Perruchet & Vinter, the SOC model echoes Johnson-Laird's mental model theory. Indeed, the latter rejects rule-based processing and assumes that reasoning is achieved through the manipulation of conscious representations. However, the mental model theory as well as its modified versions resorts to the abstraction of complex schemas and some form of implicit logic that seems incompatible with the SOC approach.
It has recently been reported that forward inferences from if p then q sentences (i.e., from antecedent to consequent) were faster than backward inferences from consequent to antecedent (Barrouillet, Grosset, & Lecas, 2000). The standard mental model theory assumes that this directionality effect is a figural effect due to the order the information enters working memory, whereas we claim that it results from the nature of the mental models that represent oriented relations from hypothetical values introduced by the word If (...) . We tested these hypotheses in an experiment in which adult participants evaluated conditional syllogisms from either if p then q , p only if q , or p if q statements. Contrary to the predictions resulting from the standard theory, the three forms of the conditional provoked a reversed directionality effect and denial inferences took longer to endorse than affirmative inferences for all the forms of conditionals. We argue from these results that mental models of the conditional represent oriented relations instead of mere co-occurrences between events. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThe probabilistic truth table task involves assessing the probability of "If A then C" conditional sentences. Previous studies have shown that a majority of participants assess this probability as the conditional probability P while a substantial minority responds with the probability of the conjunction A and C. In an experiment involving 96 participants, we investigated the impact on the rate of conjunctive responses of the context in which the task is framed. We show that a context intended to lead participants (...) to consider all the possible cases elicited more conjunctive responses than a context assumed not to have this effect. These results suggest that the step of inferring the probability can distort our assessment of participants' interpretation of conditional sentences. This might compromise the validity of the probabilistic task in studying conditional reasoning. (shrink)