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Getting one step closer to deduction: Introducing an alternative paradigm for transitive inference

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Transitive inference is claimed to be “deductive”. Yet every group/species ever reported apparently uses it. We asked 58 adults to solve five-term transitive tasks, requiring neither training nor premise learning. A computer-based procedure ensured all premises were continually visible. Response accuracy and RT (non-discriminative nRT) were measured as is typically done. We also measured RT confined to correct responses (cRT). Overall, very few typical transitive phenomena emerged. The symbolic distance effect never extended to premise recall and was not at all evident for nRT; suggesting the use of non-deductive end-anchor strategies. For overall performance, and particularly the critical B?D inference, our findings indicate that deductive transitive inference is far more intellectually challenging than previously thought. Contrasts of our present findings against previous findings suggest at least two distinct transitive inference modes, with most research and most computational models to date targeting an associative mode rather than their desired deductive mode. This conclusion fits well with the growing number of theories embracing a “dual process” conception of reasoning. Finally, our differing findings for nRT versus cRT suggest that researchers should give closer consideration to matching the RT measure they use to the particular conception of transitive inference they pre-held.

Keywords: Adult reasoning; Dual process theory; Relational reasoning; Symbolic distance effect; Transitive inference

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13546780802110131

Affiliations: Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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