Theories of Conditional Reasoning: A Developmental Examination of Competing Hypotheses

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Children and adolescents were presented with problems that contained deontic (i.e., if action p is taken, then precondition q must be met) or causal (i.e., if event p occurs, then event q will transpire) conditionals and that varied in the ease with which alternative antecedents could be activated. Results showed that inferences were linked to the availability of alternative antecedents and the generation of “disabling” conditions (claims that the conditionals were false under specific circumstances). Age-related developments were found only on problems involving indeterminate inferences. Correlations among inferences differed for children and adolescents. The findings provide stronger support for domain-general theories than for domain-specific theories of reasoning and suggest, under some conditions, age-related changes in the roles of implicit and explicit processing.

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