Explanation and Evidence in Informal Argument

Cognitive Science 24 (4):573-604 (2000)
  Copy   BIBTEX


A substantial body of evidence shows that people tend to rely too heavily on explanations when trying to justify an opinion. Some research suggests these errors may arise from an inability to distinguish between explanations and the evidence that bears upon them. We examine an alternative account, that many people do distinguish between explanations and evidence, but rely more heavily on unsubstantiated explanations when evidence is scarce or absent. We examine the philosophical and psychological distinctions between explanation and evidence, and show that participants use explanations as a substitute for missing evidence. Experiment 1 replicates the results of other researchers, but further shows that participants generate more evidence when they are not constrained by their lack of data. Merely mentioning a source of data can alter both their evaluation (Experiment 2) and their production (Experiment 3) of explanations and evidence. In Experiment 4, we show that participants can explicitly consider the availability of evidence and other pragmatic factors when evaluating arguments. Finally, we consider the implications of using explanations to replace missing evidence as a strategy in argument.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 86,507

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Argumentation and evidence.R. E. G. Upshur & Errol Colak - 2003 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 24 (4):283-299.
Dialogue theory for critical thinking.Douglas N. Walton - 1989 - Argumentation 3 (2):169-184.
Argument.Kevin C. Klement - 2003 - Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Belief bias in informal reasoning.Valerie Thompson & Jonathan St B. T. Evans - 2012 - Thinking and Reasoning 18 (3):278 - 310.
Resisting Explanation.G. Randolph Mayes - 2000 - Argumentation 14 (4):361-380.
Informal Logic.Leo Groarke - 1996 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A new argument for evidentialism?Masahiro Yamada - 2010 - Philosophia 38 (2):399-404.


Added to PP

37 (#357,849)

6 months
2 (#524,683)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Citations of this work

Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory.Dan Sperber - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (2):57.
Conditionals, Causality and Conditional Probability.Robert van Rooij & Katrin Schulz - 2018 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 28 (1):55-71.
Intuitive and reflective inferences.Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber - 2009 - In Keith Frankish & Jonathan St B. T. Evans (eds.), In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford University Press. pp. 149--170.

View all 30 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Otto Neurath.
The Uses of Argument.Stephen Toulmin - 1958 - Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Explanatory coherence (plus commentary).Paul Thagard - 1989 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 12 (3):435-467.

View all 12 references / Add more references