Domain-specific reasoning: Social contracts, cheating, and perspective change

Cognition 43 (2):127-171 (1992)
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What counts as human rationality: reasoning processes that embody content-independent formal theories, such as propositional logic, or reasoning processes that are well designed for solving important adaptive problems? Most theories of human reasoning have been based on content-independent formal rationality, whereas adaptive reasoning, ecological or evolutionary, has been little explored. We elaborate and test an evolutionary approach, Cosmides' social contract theory, using the Wason selection task. In the first part, we disentangle the theoretical concept of a “social contract” from that of a “cheater-detection algorithm”. We demonstrate that the fact that a rule is perceived as a social contract — or a conditional permission or obligation, as Cheng and Holyoak proposed — is not sufficient to elicit Cosmides' striking results, which we replicated. The crucial issue is not semantic, but pragmatic: whether a person is cued into the perspective of a party who can be cheated. In the second part, we distinguish between social contracts with bilateral and unilateral cheating options. Perspective change in contracts with bilateral cheating options turns P & not-Q responses into not-P & Q responses. The results strongly support social contract theory, contradict availability theory, and cannot be accounted for by pragmatic reasoning schema theory, which lacks the pragmatic concepts of perspectives and cheating detection



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References found in this work

The Logic of Scientific Discovery.Karl Popper - 1959 - Studia Logica 9:262-265.
The Logic of Scientific Discovery.K. Popper - 1959 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 10 (37):55-57.
Logic and Conversation.H. P. Grice - 1975 - In Donald Davidson & Gilbert Harman (eds.), The Logic of Grammar. Encino, CA: pp. 64-75.

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