Chapter Summary

In this chapter, we have reviewed some of the major theories of deductive reasoning as they apply to reasoning with conditionals.

• The evidence on reasoning with conditionals shows that people do not consistently make inferences sanctioned as being valid by propositional logic, and sometimes make invalid inferences. Context effects have shown that these patterns of valid and invalid inferences are sensitive to other factors like the provision of additional conditions, alternative conditions, uncertain premises, salient premises, and causal conditions.

• The evidence on the selection task shows that people do not make the logically appropriate falsifying choices in abstract versions of the task, but do better on deontic versions of the task (using thematic, realistic, or permission materials).

• The abstract-rule theory proposes that people construct mental proofs of conclusions from premises using abstract, content-free rules. It thus relies on a normative theory from logic. This theory can account for the different patterns of inferences with conditionals, some context effects, and some aspects of the selection task.

• The mental models theory proposes that people construct models of the premises from which conclusions are drawn and validated by a search for counterexamples. It also relies on a normative theory from logic. This theory can account for the different patterns of inferences with conditionals, most context effects, and many of the findings in the selection task.

• The domain-specific-rule theory proposes that people have specific schemata for classes of situations like permissions, obligations, and contracts. This theory has been applied to explain thematic or deontic versions of the selection task. It requires an additional theory (either abstract-rule or mental models) to account for reasoning with more abstract materials; hence, it argues for a dual process account.

• The probabilistic theory proposes that people act to maximise information gain by making the most informative choices/conclusions. It relies on a normative model from probability theory. This theory has been extensively applied to the findings on the selection task.

• Cognitive neuropsychological research on reasoning has implicated the left frontal lobes although background knowledge influences are apparent in the right hemisphere.

• 10 general, it is clear that people are rational in some sense. What is not yet clear is whether they are rational in a purely adaptive, goal-directed sense or whether they can be said to be truly rational in a normative sense (e.g., relative to a logical model).

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