People more frequently select norm-violating factors, relative to norm- conforming ones, as the cause of some outcome. Until recently, this abnormal-selection effect has been studied using retrospective vignette-based paradigms. We use a novel set of video stimuli to investigate this effect for prospective causal judgments—i.e., judgments about the cause of some future outcome. Four experiments show that people more frequently select norm- violating factors, relative to norm-conforming ones, as the cause of some future outcome. We show that the abnormal-selection effects (...) are not primarily explained by the perception of agency (Experiment 4). We discuss these results in relation to recent efforts to model causal judgment. (shrink)
This article presents a fundamental advance in the theory of mental models as an explanation of reasoning about facts, possibilities, and probabilities. It postulates that the meanings of compound assertions, such as conditionals (if) and disjunctions (or), unlike those in logic, refer to conjunctions of epistemic possibilities that hold in default of information to the contrary. Various factors such as general knowledge can modulate these interpretations. New information can always override sentential inferences; that is, reasoning in daily life is defeasible (...) (or nonmonotonic). The theory is a dual process one: It distinguishes between intuitive inferences (based on system 1) and deliberative inferences (based on system 2). The article describes a computer implementation of the theory, including its two systems of reasoning, and it shows how the program simulates crucial predictions that evidence corroborates. It concludes with a discussion of how the theory contrasts with those based on logic or on probabilities. (shrink)
Generic sentences (e.g., bare plural sentences such as “dogs have four legs” and “mosquitoes carry malaria”) are used to talk about kinds of things. Three experiments investigated the conceptual foundations of generics as well as claims within the formal semantic approaches to generics concerning the roles of prevalence, cue validity and normalcy in licensing generics. Two classes of generic sentences that pose challenges to both the conceptually based and formal semantic approaches to generics were investigated. Striking property generics (e.g. “sharks (...) bite swimmers”) are true even though only a tiny minority of instances have the property and thus pose obvious problems for quantificational approaches, and they also do not seem to characterize kinds in terms of the principled or statistical connections investigated in previous research ( Prasada and Dillingham, 2006 ; Prasada and Dillingham, 2009). The second class — minority characteristic generics (e.g. “ducks lay eggs”) — also poses serious problems for quantificational accounts, and appears to involve principled connections even though fewer than half of its instances have the relevant property. The experiments revealed three principal discoveries: first, striking generics involve neither principled nor statistical connections. Instead, they involve a causal connection between a kind and a property. Second, minority characteristic generics exhibit the characteristics of principled connections, which suggests that principled connections license the expectation that most instances will have the property, but do not require it. Finally, the experiments also provided evidence that prevalence and the acceptability of generics may be dissociated and provided data that are problematic for normalcy approaches to generics, and for the idea that cue validity licenses low prevalence generics. As such, the studies provided evidence in favor of a conceptually based approach to the semantics of generics ( Leslie, 2007 ; Leslie, 2008; see also Carlson, 2009). (shrink)
People often reason about omissions. One line of research shows that people can distinguish between the semantics of omissive causes and omissive enabling conditions: for instance, not flunking out of college enabled you (but didn’t cause you) to graduate. Another line of work shows that people rely on the normative status of omissive events in inferring their causal role: if the outcome came about because the omission violated some norm, reasoners are more likely to select that omission as a cause. (...) We designed a novel paradigm that tests how norms interact with the semantics of omissive enabling conditions. The paradigm concerns the circuitry of a mechanical device that plays music. Two experiments used the paradigm to stipulate norms and present a distinct set of possibilities to participants. Participants chose which causal verb best described the operations of the machine. The studies revealed that participants’ responses are best predicted by their tendency to consider the semantics of omissive relations. In contrast, norms had little to no effect in participants’ responses. We conclude by marshaling the evidence and considering what role norms may play in people’s understanding of omissions. (shrink)
We describe a dual-process theory of how individuals estimate the probabilities of unique events, such as Hillary Clinton becoming U.S. President. It postulates that uncertainty is a guide to improbability. In its computer implementation, an intuitive system 1 simulates evidence in mental models and forms analog non-numerical representations of the magnitude of degrees of belief. This system has minimal computational power and combines evidence using a small repertoire of primitive operations. It resolves the uncertainty of divergent evidence for single events, (...) for conjunctions of events, and for inclusive disjunctions of events, by taking a primitive average of non-numerical probabilities. It computes conditional probabilities in a tractable way, treating the given event as evidence that may be relevant to the probability of the dependent event. A deliberative system 2 maps the resulting representations into numerical probabilities. With access to working memory, it carries out arithmetical operations in combining numerical estimates. Experiments corroborated the theory's predictions. Participants concurred in estimates of real possibilities. They violated the complete joint probability distribution in the predicted ways, when they made estimates about conjunctions: P, P, P, disjunctions: P, P, P, and conditional probabilities P, P, P. They were faster to estimate the probabilities of compound propositions when they had already estimated the probabilities of each of their components. We discuss the implications of these results for theories of probabilistic reasoning. (shrink)
When the absence of an event causes some outcome, it is an instance of omissive causation. For instance, not eating lunch may cause you to be hungry. Recent psychological proposals concur that the mind represents causal relations, including omissive causal relations, through mental simulation, but they disagree on the form of that simulation. One theory states that people represent omissive causes as force vectors; another states that omissions are representations of contrasting counterfactual simulations; a third argues that people think about (...) omissions by representing sets of iconic possibilities – mental models – in a piecemeal fashion. In this paper, we tease apart the empirical predictions of the three theories and describe experiments that run counter to two of them. Experiments 1 and 2 show that reasoners can infer temporal relations from omissive causes – a pattern that contravenes the force theory. Experiment 3 asked participants to list the possibilities consistent with an omissive cause – it found that they tended to list particular privileged possibilities first, most often, and faster than alternative possibilities. The pattern is consistent with the model theory, but inconsistent with the contrast hypothesis. We marshal the evidence and explain why it helps to solve a long-standing debate about how the mind represents omissions. (shrink)
Some philosophers argue that the principles of human reasoning are impeccable, and that mistakes are no more than momentary lapses in “information processing”. This article makes a case to the contrary. It shows that human reasoners commit systematic fallacies. The theory of mental models predicts these errors. It postulates that individuals construct mental models of the possibilities to which the premises of an inference refer. But, their models usually represent what is true in a possibility, not what is false. This (...) procedure reduces the load on working memory, and for the most part it yields valid inferences. However, as a computer program implementing the theory revealed, it leads to fallacious conclusions for certain inferences—those for which it is crucial to represent what is false in a possibility. Experiments demonstrate the variety of these fallacies and contrast them with control problems, which reasoners tend to get right. The fallacies can be compelling illusions, and they occur in reasoning based on sentential connectives such as “if” and “or”, quantifiers such as “all the artists” and “some of the artists”, on deontic relations such as “permitted” and “obligated”, and causal relations such as “causes” and “allows”. After we have reviewed the principal results, we consider the potential for alternative accounts to explain these illusory inferences. And we show how the illusions illuminate the nature of human rationality. (shrink)
Henrich et al. address how culture leads to cognitive variability and recommend that researchers be critical about the samples they investigate. However, there are other sources of variability, such as individual strategies in reasoning and the content and context on which processes operate. Because strategy and content drive variability, those factors are of primary interest, while culture is merely incidental.
No present theory explains the inferences people draw about the real world when reasoning about “bouletic” relations, that is, predicates that express desires, such as want in “Lee wants to be in love”. Linguistic accounts of want define it in terms of a relation to a desirer's beliefs, and how its complement is deemed desirable. In contrast, we describe a new model‐based theory that posits that by default, desire predicates such as want contrast desires against facts. In particular, A wants (...) P implies by default that P is not the case, because you cannot want what is already true. On further deliberation, reasoners may infer that A believes, but does not know for certain, that P is not the case. The theory makes several empirical predictions about how people interpret, assess the consistency of, and draw conclusions from desire predicates like want. Seven experiments tested and validated the theory's central predictions. We assess the theory in light of recent proposals of desire predicates. (shrink)
Knauff and Gazzo Castañeda (this issue) critique the "new paradigm" – a framework that replaces logic with probabilities – on the grounds that there existed no "old” paradigm for it to supplant. Their position is supported by the large numbers of theories that theorists developed to explain the Wason selection task, syllogisms, and other tasks. We propose some measures to inhibit such facile theorizing, which threatens the viability of cognitive science. We show that robust results exist contrary to the new (...) paradigm, and that it is unable to account for other results. (shrink)
Two issues should be addressed to refine and extend the distinction between temporal updating and reasoning advocated by Hoerl & McCormack. First, do the mental representations constructed during updating differ from those used for reasoning? Second, are updating and reasoning the only two processes relevant to temporal thinking? If not, is a dual-systems framework sensible? We address both issues below.
Machery has usefully organized the vast heterogeneity in conceptual representation. However, we believe his argument is too narrow in tacitly assuming that concepts are comprised of only prototypes, exemplars, and theories, and also that its eliminative aspect is too strong. We examine two exceptions to Machery's representational taxonomy before considering whether doing without concepts is a good idea.