Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Belief-Based and Analytic Processing in Transitive Inference Depends on Premise Integration Difficulty

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Belief-Based and Analytic Processing in Transitive Inference Depends on Premise Integration Difficulty

Article excerpt

Three experiments investigated belief-based versus analytic processing in transitive inference. Belief-based and analytic processing were inferred from conclusion acceptance rates for problems with conclusions that were either valid or invalid and believable or unbelievable. Premise integration difficulty was manipulated by varying premise integration time (Experiment 1), premise presentation order (Experiment 2), and the markedness of the relational terms in the premises (Experiment 3). In all the conditions, reasoning accuracy and rated confidence were lower on conflict problems, where belief-based and analytic processes yielded different responses. Participants relied more on analytic processing and less on belief-based processing in conditions in which premise integration was easier. Fluid intelligence and premise integration ability predicted analytical reasoning on conflict problems after reasoning on the no-conflict problems was controlled for. The findings were related to three dual-process models of belief bias. They provide the first evidence of belief bias in transitive inference.

Belief bias in reasoning is the tendency to draw or accept conclusions on the basis of one's beliefs, rather than on whether the conclusions follow logically from the premises (Oakhill & Johnson-Laird, 1985). For example, given the premises The horse is larger than the cow and The cow is larger than the elephant, the conclusion The elephant is larger than the horse suggests the presence of belief bias, whereas The horse is larger than the elephant is the logically correct transitive inference.

Most accounts of belief bias invoke dual-process models of reasoning. According to these models, two types of cognitive processes underlie human reasoning. Nonanalytic processes are rapid, parallel, and automatic in their operation and are thought to include retrieval of beliefs and prior knowledge. Analytic processes permit abstract thinking, but they operate more slowly, are effortful, and impose demands on working memory and other fluid capacities (Evans, 2003). The two processes usually work together, but in some situations, they come into conflict. Dual-process models attribute belief bias to the dominance of belief-based processing over analytic processing.

There have been many demonstrations of belief bias in reasoning (see Evans, Newstead, & Byrne, 1993, for a review). The findings are consistent with dual-process models. Other evidence for dual-process models is provided by neuroimaging studies showing that different neural pathways are activated during belief-based and analytic reasoning (Goel & Dolan, 2003) and by findings that individuals with higher fluid intelligence are better able to resist belief bias (Stanovitch & West, 2008) and that belief-based and analytic processing have different developmental trajectories (De Neys & Van Gelder, 2009; Gilinsky & Judd, 1994).

The present research examined belief-based and analytic processing in transitive inference, similar to the example above. No previous research appears to have addressed this issue. Three experiments tested the general hypothesis that individuals give more belief-based responses under conditions in which analytic processing is difficult.

Most previous research has examined belief bias in categorical syllogisms. Two premise statements are presented. Participants generate conclusions that follow from the premises, or they evaluate conclusions presented to them. The following is a valid syllogism with an unbelievable conclusion. No musicians are Italians. All barbers are musicians. Therefore, no barbers are Italians. Invalid conclusions are either determinately or indeterminately invalid. Determinately invalid conclusions are incompatible with all situations implied by the premises. Such conclusions cannot follow from the premises. Indeterminately invalid conclusions are compatible with some (not all) situations implied by the premises. …

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