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Conditional reasoning, frequency of counterexamples, and the effect of response modality

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Publication details

JournalMemory & Cognition
DatePublished - Jun 2010
Issue number4
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)485-92
Original languageEnglish


Geiger and Oberauer (2007) found that when asked to reason with conditionals, people are very sensitive to information about the relative frequency of exceptions to conditional rules and quite insensitive to the relative number of disabling conditions. They asked participants to rate their degree of certainty in a conclusion. In the following studies, we investigated the possibility that this kind of response encourages a more probabilistic mode of processing compared with the usual dichotomous response. In Study 1, participants were given a variant of the problems used by Geiger and Oberauer with either the same scaled response format or a dichotomous categorical response. The results with the scaled response were identical to those of Geiger and Oberauer. However, the results with the categorical response presented a very different profile. In Study 2, we presented similar problems using only frequency information, followed by a set of abstract conditional reasoning problems. The participants who performed better on the abstract problems showed a significantly different response profile than those who did worse on the abstract problems in the categorical response condition. No such difference was observed in the scaled response condition. These results show that response modality strongly affects the way in which information is processed in otherwise identical inferential problems and they are consistent with the idea that scaled responses promote a probabilistic mode of processing.

    Research areas

  • Adolescent, Association Learning, Awareness, Female, Humans, Logic, Male, Models, Statistical, Probability Learning, Problem Solving, Young Adult

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