The processing of negations in conditional reasoning: A meta-analytic case study in mental model and/or mental logic theory

Thinking and Reasoning 7 (2):121-172 (2001)
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We present a meta-analytic review on the processing of negations in conditional reasoning about affirmation problems (Modus Ponens: “MP”, Affirmation of the Consequent “AC”) and denial problems (Denial of the Antecedent “DA”, and Modus Tollens “MT”). Findings correct previous generalisations about the phenomena. First, the effects of negation in the part of the conditional about which an inference is made, are not constrained to denial problems. These inferential-negation effects are also observed on AC. Second, there generally are reliable effects of a negation in the clause referred to by the categorical premise, and these referred-negation effects are constrained to the logically fallacious AC and DA inferences. All findings are presented and discussed in relation to contemporary mental model (MM) and mental logic (ML) theories. It is argued that a double-negation elimination hypothesis provides a sufficient explanation of inferential-negation effects within both MM theory and ML theory, if the latter is extended by a validating search for counter examples. Both MM and ML theories adhere to a processing scheme that allows them to incorporate an account of referred-negation effects based on the thesis that counter-example frequency is modulated by the scope of a contrast class delineated by a false affirmative. We conclude that MM and ML theories provide adequate processing schemes to accommodate for the explanatory hypotheses, at least in principle. In practice, both approaches remain equivocal as regards the connectivity and interactivity with long-term memory knowledge invoked in generating, manipulating, and testing the mental representations of negative state of affairs.



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