Latest discovery: Vergauwe, E., Gauffroy, C., Morsanyi, K., Dagry I., & Barrouillet, P. (2013).

Evie Vergauwe, Caroline Gauffroy, Kinga Morsanyi,  Isabelle Dagry and Pierre Barrouillet have discovered that when people think about a conditional such as, ‘if the circle is red then the star is yellow’, they take a long time to judge that an instance such as ‘the circle is not red and the star is yellow’ is irrelevant. Their results are reported in their article ‘Chronometric evidence for the dual-process mental model theory of conditionals’ published in the latest issue of the  Journal of Cognitive Psychology (25, 2, 174-182). They summarise the finding in their abstract as follows:

“The fact that adults exhibit a defective truth table when evaluating “If p then q” conditional statement and judge ¬p cases as irrelevant for the truth value of the conditional has been considered as one of the main evidence against the mental model theory and in favour of Evans’ (2007) suppositional account of conditional. If judgements of irrelevance result from some heuristic process, as the suppositional theory assumes, they should be rapid. By contrast, if they result from a demanding and time consuming fleshing out process, as our mental model theory assumes, “irrelevant” responses should be the slowest. In the present study, we analyse the time course of responses in a truth table task as a function of their nature and the interpretation of the conditional adopted by the participants. As our mental model theory predicts, “irrelevant” responses are the slowest, and response times are a direct function of the number of models each type of response involves.”

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