Strategies in relational inference
Three experiments are reported in which the relationships between task format, item type, and strategy usage were investigated for a two-dimensional relational inference task. Contrary to past findings with linear syllogisms, it was found that parallel presentation (presenting problem statements simultaneously) did not result in any increased use of deduction rule processes compared with serial presentation (presenting problem statements individually). Instead, the results suggested that mental models were used by the majority of subjects, and that multiple models were more likely to be constructed with parallel presentation. It is proposed that, in general, multiple model construction will be more frequent for deduction tasks where the cognitive load is relatively low. Hence, contrary to suggestions by Polk and Newell (1995), reasoning in this way appears to be prevalent and highly robust - where supported by task format - even where the use of this strategy is disadvantageous.