Alternative antecedents, probabilities, and the suppression of fallacies in Wason's selection task

Simon J. Handley*, Aidan Feeney, Catherine Harper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Three experiments examined the influence of a second rule on the pattern of card selections on Wason's selection task. In Experiment 1 participants received a version of the task with a single test rule or one of two versions of the task with the same original test rule together with a second rule. The probability of q was manipulated in the two-rules conditions by varying the size of the antecedent set in the second rule. The results showed a significant suppression of q card and not-p card selections in the alternative-rule conditions, but no difference as a function of antecedent set size. In Experiment 2 the size of the antecendent set in the two-rules conditions was manipulated using the context of a computer printing double-sided cards. The results showed a significant reduction of q card selections in the two-rules conditions, but no effect of p set size. In Experiment 3 the scenario accompanying the rule was manipulated, and it specified a single alternative antecedent or a number of alternative antecedents. The q card selection rates were not affected by the scenario manipulation but again were suppressed by the presence of a second rule. Our results suggest that people make inferences about the unseen side of the cards when engaging with the task and that these inferences are systematically influenced by the presence of a second rule, but are not influenced by the probabilistic characteristics of this rule. These findings are discussed in the context of decision theoretic views of selection task performance (Oaksford & Chater, 1994).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-818
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2002
Externally publishedYes


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