Direct Evidence for a Dual Process Model of Deductive Inference

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In 2 experiments, we tested a strong version of a dual process theory of conditional inference (cf. Verschueren et al., 2005a, 2005b) that assumes that most reasoners have 2 strategies available, the choice of which is determined by situational variables, cognitive capacity, and metacognitive control. The statistical strategy evaluates inferences probabilistically, accepting those with high conditional probability. The counterexample strategy rejects inferences when a counterexample shows the inference to be invalid. To discriminate strategy use, we presented reasoners with conditional statements (if p, then q) and explicit statistical information about the relative frequency of the probability of p/q (50% vs. 90%). A statistical strategy would accept the more probable inferences more frequently, whereas the counterexample one would reject both. In Experiment 1, reasoners under time pressure used the statistical strategy more, but switched to the counterexample strategy when time constraints were removed; the former took less time than the latter. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that the statistical strategy is the default heuristic. Under a free-time condition, reasoners preferred the counterexample strategy and kept it when put under time pressure. Thus, it is not simply a lack of capacity that produces a statistical strategy; instead, it seems that time pressure disrupts the ability to make good metacognitive choices. In line with this conclusion, in a 2nd experiment, we measured reasoners’ confidence in their performance; those under time pressure were less confident in the statistical than the counterexample strategy and more likely to switch strategies under free-time conditions.

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