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Individual differences in conditional reasoning: A dual-process account

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Dual-process theories of conditional reasoning predict that relationships among four basic logical forms, and to intellectual ability and thinking predictions, are most evident when conflict arises between experiential and analytic processing (e.g., Stanovich & West, 2000). To test these predictions, 210 undergraduates were presented with conditionals for which the consequents were either weakly or strongly associated with alternative antecedents (i.e., WA and SA problems, respectively). Consistent with predictions, modus ponens inferences were not related to inferences on the uncertain forms (affirmation of the consequent, denial of the antecedent). On WA problems, modus tollens, affirmation of the consequent, and denial of the antecedent were related to each other and to verbal ability. Modus ponens was linked to verbal ability only when disabling conditions were activated. In accord with the predictions of Stanovich and West (2000), on most problems, thinking dispositions predicted variance in inferences independently from verbal ability. We argue that a largely automatic experiential processing system governs performance on modus ponens, unless disablers are activated. Consciously controlled analytic processing predominates on the uncertain forms and, under some conditions, on modus tollens.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Maine at Farmington, ME, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2005


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