We investigate how the perceived uncertainty of a conditional affects a person's choice of conclusion. We use a novel procedure to introduce uncertainty by manipulating the conditional probability of the consequent given the antecedent. In Experiment 1, we show first that subjects reduce their choice of valid conclusions when a conditional is followed by an additional premise that makes the major premise uncertain. In this we replicate Byrne. These subjects choose, instead, a qualified conclusion expressing uncertainty. If subjects are given (...) a third statement that qualifies the likelihood of the additional premise, then the uncertainty of the conclusions they choose is systematically related to the suggested uncertainty. Experiment 2 confirms these observations in problems that omit the additional premise and qualify the first premise directly. Experiment 3 shows that the qualifying statement also affects the perceived probability of the consequent given the antecedent of the conditional. Experiment 4 investigates the effect of suggested uncertainty on the fallacies and shows that increases in uncertainty reduce the number of certain conclusions that are chosen while affirming the consequent but have no effect on denying the antecedent. We discuss our results in terms of rule theories and mental models and conclude that the latter give the most natural account of our results. (shrink)
Four experiments investigated uncertainty about a premise in a deductive argument as a function of the expertise of the speaker and of the conversational context. The procedure mimicked everyday reasoning in that participants were not told that the premises were to be treated as certain. The results showed that the perceived likelihood of a conclusion was greater when the major or the minor premise was uttered by an expert rather than a novice (Experiment 1). The results also showed that uncertainty (...) about the conclusion was higher when the major premise was uttered by a novice and an alternative premise by an expert, compared to when the major premise was uttered by an expert and the alternative by a novice (Experiment 2). Similarly, the believability of a conclusion was considerably lower when the minor premise was uttered by a novice and denied by an expert, as opposed to when an expert uttered the minor premise and a novice denied it (Experiment 3). Experiment 4 showed that the nature of the uncertainty induced by a denial of the minor premise depended on whether or not the context was a conversation. These results pose difficult problems for current theories of reasoning, as current theories are based on the results of experiments in which the premises are treated as certain. Our discussion of the results emphasises the importance of pragmatics in reasoning, namely, the role of general knowledge about the world in assessing the probability of a premise uttered by an expert or a novice and the role of interpretations of the premise based on pragmatic inferences in revising these initial probabilities. (shrink)
Howe, Davidson & Sloboda's focus on learning has important implications because the amount and quality of training are relevant to all learners, not just those acquiring exceptional abilities. In this commentary, I discuss learning goals as an indicator of learning quality, and suggest that all learners can be guided towards more effective learning by shifting their learning goals.