Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Heuristic Bias in Children's Reasoning in the Personal Domain

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Heuristic Bias in Children's Reasoning in the Personal Domain

Article excerpt

Human reasoning is often biased by heuristic thinking, but the nature of heuristic bias is yet to be exactly explained. As the focus of most relevant experiments on heuristic bias in reasoning has been exclusively on adults, we conducted a study with children aged between 7 and 16 years (N = 129). Our aim was to identify which element in the reasoning process fails and thus underlies the heuristic bias in children's reasoning in the personal domain. We explored the probability of judging violation among this group of children in reasoning tasks involving personal domain rules and by measuring their lexical decision times. The results showed that the heuristic bias in children's reasoning in the personal domain was caused by monitoring failure among those who were of junior school age and by inhibition failure among those who were of middle school age. As most of the children of senior school age were able to complete the inhibition process, they had less heuristic bias.

Keywords: personal domain, children's reasoning, heuristic bias, monitoring failure, inhibition failure.

According to the social domain approach, it is common for children to disobey rules that apply in the personal domain, and this behavior becomes even more prominent as they reach adolescence (Nucci, 2001). Acts typically judged to fall in the personal domain include children's recreational choices, choice of friends, and matters relating to personal appearance or involving their own body (Helwig, 2006). In daily life, children frequently confront situations in which they want to act in a certain way, but their desire conflicts with parental or societal rules. In these situations, the children's desire is so strong that they break rules to realize this desire. Findings in the cognitive field that people tend to make decisions based on intuition (Kahneman, 2011), are consistent with this process. According to Evans (2008), this phenomenon of human irrationality should be attributed not to a failure of analytical reasoning per se but rather to a lack of inhibition of intuitive beliefs. Although this intuitive or so-called heuristic thinking can sometimes be useful, it can also cue responses that conflict with formal norms or bias people's reasoning (Evans, 2010; Stanovich, 2011). In other words, human thinking and reasoning are often biased by intuitive heuristics (De Neys & Feremans, 2013). In this study, our focus was on reasoning in the personal domain, in which heuristic bias is common. The fundamental reason for children's violation of rules in this domain is explained by the nature of heuristic bias.

Clarification of the nature of heuristic bias throughout human development is critical to the study of human thinking and reasoning (De Neys & Feremans, 2013). As well as exploring why people have a biased response, De Neys and Bonnefon (2013) examined the timing of the divergence in the reasoning process, which is composed of three building blocks: storage, monitoring, and inhibition (Evans, 2007; Stanovich, Toplak, & West, 2008). Heuristic bias can result from a failure in the processing of a specific component in reasoning (De Neys & Feremans, 2013). Storage failure entails bias being attributed to a lack of formal knowledge. An incorrect response implies that the reasoner does not know the right response. Monitoring failure results when reasoners fail to detect the conflict between stored formal knowledge and an intuitively cued heuristic response, and they do not draw on this knowledge when it is needed. They also fail to realize that their heuristic response needs to be corrected. Inhibition failure occurs when reasoners detect the conflict, but fail to inhibit the heuristic response owing to the lack of motivational or cognitive resources needed to complete the inhibition process (De Neys & Bonnefon, 2013).

However, in most previous studies on thinking and reasoning, the focus has been exclusively on adults' performance. …

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