Sergio Moreno-Ríos, Cristian Rojas-Barahona and Juan A. García-Madruga have examined how children and adults reason about diagrams of simple shapes, such as a red triangle, a red circle and a blue circle, that contain indeterminate information. Their findings are published in their paper ‘Perceptual inferences about indeterminate arrangements of figures’ in the latest issue of Acta Psychologica (2014, 148, 216-225).
They describe their results in their abstract as follows:
“Previous studies in spatial propositional reasoning showed that adults use a particular strategy for making representations and inferences from indeterminate descriptions (those consistent with different alternatives). They do not initially represent all the alternatives, but construct a unified mental representation that includes a kind of mental footnote. Only when the task requires access to alternatives is the unified representation reinspected. The degree of generalisation of this proposal to other perceptual situations was evaluated in three experiments with children, adolescents and adults, using a perceptual inference task with diagrammatic premises that gave information about the location of one of three possible objects. Results obtained with this very quick perceptual task support the kind of representation proposed from propositional spatial reasoning studies. However, children and adults differed in accuracy, with the results gradually changing with age: indeterminacy leads adults to require extra time for understanding and inferring alternatives, whereas children commit errors. These results could help inform us of how people can make inferences from diagrammatic information and make wrong interpretations.”