Conditional reasoning with causal premises: Evidence for a retrieval model

Thinking and Reasoning 8 (3):179 – 191 (2002)
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This study examined the hypothesis that a key process in conditional reasoning with concrete premises involves on-line retrieval of information about potential alternate antecedents. Participants were asked to solve reasoning problems with causal conditional premises (If cause P then effect Q). These premises were inserted into short contexts. The availability of potential alternatives was varied from one context to another by adding statements that explicitly invalidated one or more of these alternatives (i.e., other causes that lead to the effect Q). The invalidated alternatives differed in the degree of their semantic association to the consequent term (Q). The results show that the effect of invalidating one or more potential alternatives on the two uncertain logical forms, AC and DA, was largely determined by their relative associative strength. These results strongly support a model for conditional reasoning with causal premises that supposes that a key element in responding to the uncertain logical forms is on-line retrieval of at least one potential alternative antecedent.



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Stéphane Quinn
Université du Québec à Montreal