Mind and Society 5 (2):229-245 (2006)
AbstractReasoning research has focussed mainly on the type of cognitive processes involved when representing premises and when producing conclusions. But less is known about the factors that guide these representational and inferential processes. What premises are actually taken as input in reasoning? And what conclusions are intended? In this paper it is argued that considerations of relevance are helpful for addressing these issues as a pragmatic analysis of two sorts of tasks is carried out, Wason’s 2-4-6 problem and a conditional reasoning problem. Study 1 indicates that the way this task is communicated may encourage participants to consider misleading information as highly relevant for solving it. Two experiments go on to show that when the relevance of misleading information is contextually diminished, participants are more efficient at providing the correct solution. Study 2 compares the production rate of two sorts of conclusions: logically valid but weakly relevant conclusions and invalid but relevant and pragmatically justified conclusions. This study shows that the relevance of conclusions determines to a large extent whether or not they will be produced.
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