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Reconnecting interpretation to reasoning through individual differences

Taylor & Francis
Publication Date
  • Qa0075 Electronic Computers. Computer Science
  • Bf Psychology
  • Linguistics
  • Logic


Computational theories of mind assume that participants interpret information and then reason from those interpretations. Research on interpretation in deductive reasoning has claimed to show that subjects' interpretation of single syllogistic premises in an “immediate inference” task is radically different from their interpretation of pairs of the same premises in syllogistic reasoning tasks (Newstead, 1989, 1995; Roberts, Newstead, & Griggs, 2001). Narrow appeal to particular Gricean implicatures in this work fails to bridge the gap. Grice's theory taken as a broad framework for credulous discourse processing in which participants construct speakers' “intended models” of discourses can reconcile these results, purchasing continuity of interpretation through variety of logical treatments. We present exploratory experimental data on immediate inference and subsequent syllogistic reasoning. Systematic patterns of interpretation driven by two factors (whether the subject's model of the discourse is credulous, and their degree of reliance on information packaging) are shown to transcend particular quantifier inferences and to drive systematic differences in subjects' subsequent syllogistic reasoning. We conclude that most participants do not understand deductive tasks as experimenters intend, and just as there is no single logical model of reasoning, so there is no reason to expect a single “fundamental human reasoning mechanism”.

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