Précis of Deduction

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16 (2):323-333 (1993)
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Abstract

How do people make deductions? The orthodox view in psychology is that they use formal rules of inference like those of a “natural deduction” system.Deductionargues that their logical competence depends, not on formal rules, but on mental models. They construct models of the situation described by the premises, using their linguistic knowledge and their general knowledge. They try to formulate a conclusion based on these models that maintains semantic information, that expresses it parsimoniously, and that makes explicit something not directly stated by any premise. They then test the validity of the conclusion by searching for alternative models that might refute the conclusion. The theory also resolves long-standing puzzles about reasoning, including how nonmonotonic reasoning occurs in daily life. The book reports experiments on all the main domains of deduction, including inferences based on prepositional connectives such as “if” and “or,” inferences based on relations such as “in the same place as,” inferences based on quantifiers such as “none,” “any,” and “only,” and metalogical inferences based on assertions about the true and the false. Where the two theories make opposite predictions, the results confirm the model theory and run counter to the formal rule theories. Without exception, all of the experiments corroborate the two main predictions of the model theory: inferences requiring only one model are easier than those requiring multiple models, and erroneous conclusions are usually the result of constructing only one of the possible models of the premises.

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References found in this work

The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
The logic of scientific discovery.Karl Raimund Popper - 1934 - New York: Routledge. Edited by Hutchinson Publishing Group.

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