We propose that people typically reason about realistic situations using neither content-free syntactic inference rules nor representations of specific experiences. Rather, people reason using knowledge structures that we term pragmatic reasoning schemas, which are generalized sets of rules defined in relation to classes of goals. Three experiments examined the impact of a “permission schema” on deductive reasoning. Experiment 1 demonstrated that by evoking the permission schema it is possible to facilitate performance in Wason's selection paradigm for subjects who have had (...) no experience with the specific content of the problems. Experiment 2 showed that a selection problem worded in terms of an abstract permission elicited better performance than one worded in terms of a concrete but arbitrary situation, providing evidence for an abstract permission schema that is free of domain-specific content. Experiment 3 provided evidence that evocation of a permission schema affects not only tasks requiring procedural knowledge, but also a linguistic rephrasing task requiring declarative knowledge. In particular, statements in the form if p then q were rephrased into the form p only if q with greater frequency for permission than for arbitrary statements, and rephrasings of permission statements produced a pattern of introduction of modals totally unlike that observed for arbitrary conditional statements. Other pragmatic schemas, such as “causal” and “evidence” schemas can account for both linguistic and reasoning phenomena that alternative hypotheses fail to explain. (shrink)
The discovery of conjunctive causes--factors that act in concert to produce or prevent an effect--has been explained by purely covariational theories. Such theories assume that concomitant variations in observable events directly license causal inferences, without postulating the existence of unobservable causal relations. This article discusses problems with these theories, proposes a causal-power theory that overcomes the problems, and reports empirical evidence favoring the new theory. Unlike earlier models, the new theory derives (a) the conditions under which covariation implies conjunctive causation (...) and (b) functions relating observable events to unobservable conjunctive causal strength. This psychological theory, which concerns simple cases involving 2 binary candidate causes and a binary effect, raises questions about normative statistics for testing causal hypotheses regarding categorical data resulting from discrete variables. (shrink)
We are big fans of propositions. But we are not big fans of the proposed by Mitchell et al. The authors ignore the critical role played by implicit, non-inferential processes in biological cognition, overestimate the work that propositions alone can do, and gloss over substantial differences in how different kinds of animals and different kinds of cognitive processes approximate propositional representations.