Informatics Report Series



Related Pages

Report (by Number) Index
Report (by Date) Index
Author Index
Institute Index

Title:A little logic goes a long way: basing experiment on semantic theory in the cognitive science of conditional reasoning
Authors: Keith Stenning ; Michiel van Lambalgen
Date: 2004
Publication Title:Cognitive Science
Publication Type:Journal Article Publication Status:Published
Volume No:28(4) Page Nos:481-529
Modern logic provides accounts of both interpretation and derivation which work together to provide abstract frameworks for modelling the sensitivity of human reasoning to task, context and content. Cognitive theories have underplayed the importance of interpretative processes. We illustrate, using Wason's (1968) selection task, how better empirical cognitive investigations and theories can be built directly on logical accounts when this imbalance is redressed. Subjects quite reasonably experience great difficulty in assigning logical form to descriptively interpreted rules in this task and materials, though not to deontically interpreted ones. The main empirical contrasts in reasoning performance are precisely between these interpretations, so better semantic theory can explain the main empirical effects. However, a more adequate notion of logical form than that typically employed in the psychology of reasoning is required, and we offer a richer alternative. Prima facie evidence that subjects do in fact experience the predicted difficulties in interpreting descriptive materials is provided by analyses of socratic tutoring dialogues. Experimental verification that these difficulties do in fact affect subjects' performance in the standard task is provided by six novel experimental conditions each designed to test different aspects of the semantic predictions. The results bear out the predictions. The semantic distinction between descriptive and deontic rules interacts with the task specifics to provide powerful generalisations about reasoning which surface in detailed explanations of many disparate observations. We conclude that semantic analyses have more direct benefits for psychological investigation than is usually credited, and conversely, that the extraordinary pragmatic circumstances of psychological experiments yield much thought provoking data for semantic analysis.
The Cognitive Science Society
Links To Paper
No links available
Bibtex format
author = { Keith Stenning and Michiel van Lambalgen },
title = {A little logic goes a long way: basing experiment on semantic theory in the cognitive science of conditional reasoning},
journal = {Cognitive Science},
publisher = {LEA},
year = 2004,
volume = {28(4)},
pages = {481-529},
doi = {10.1207/s15516709cog2804_1},

Home : Publications : Report 

Please mail <> with any changes or corrections.
Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all material is copyright The University of Edinburgh