Reasoning About Food and Contamination

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Abstract

This article examines strategies that are used to reason about food and contamination. In Experiment 1, Ss refrained from choosing a substance that had been given a “poison” label when the intent of the labeler was ambiguous or malicious but preferred this substance when a rationale was provided that dispelled the implication that there once might have been contaminants present. Experiment 2 was designed to compare the effects of safety on conditional reasoning in food and food-irrelevant contexts. When the safety issue was relevant to food in the form of contamination, subjects were most likely to use formal logic in reasoning. A similar pattern of responses was found in Experiment 3 on tasks for which subjects' ratings of their experience of contexts were matched for plausibility, experience, and danger. The results are discussed in terms of an adaptive constraint that facilitates rationality in reasoning within the food domain.

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