Believe it or not

examining the case for Intuitive Logic and Effortful Beliefs

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Abstract

The overall objective of this thesis was to test the Default Interventionist (DI) account of belief-bias in human reasoning using the novel methodology introduced by Handley, Newstead & Trippas (2011). DI accounts focus on how our prior beliefs are the intuitive output that bias our reasoning process (Evans, 2006), whilst judgments based on logical validity require effortful processing. However, recent research has suggested that reasoning on the basis of beliefs may not be as fast and automatic as previous accounts claim. In orderto investigate whether belief based judgments are resource demanding we instructed participants to reason on the basis of both the validity and believability of a conclusion whilst simultaneously engaging in a secondary task (Experiment 1 - 5). We used both a within and between subjects design (Experiment 5) examining both simple and complex arguments (Experiment 4 – 9). We also analysed the effect of incorporating additional instructional conditions (Experiment 7 – 9) and tested the relationships between various individual differences (ID) measures under belief and logic instruction (Experiment 4, 5, 7, 8, & 9). In line with Handley et al.’s findings we found that belief based judgments were more prone to error and that the logical structure of a problem interfered with judging the believability of its conclusion, contrary to the DI account of reasoning. However, logical outputs sometimes took longer to complete and were more affected by random number generation (RNG) (Experiment 5). To reconcile these findings we examined the role of Working Memory (WM) and Inhibition in Experiments 7 – 9 and found, contrary to Experiment 5, belief judgments were more demanding of executive resources and correlated with ID measures of WM and inhibition. Given that belief based judgments resulted in more errors and were more impacted on by the validity of an argument the behavioural data does not fit with the DI account of reasoning. Consequently, we propose that there are two routes to a logical solution and present an alternative Parallel Competitive model to explain the data. We conjecture that when instructed to reason on the basis of belief an automatic logical output completes and provides the reasoner with an intuitive logical cue which requires inhibiting in order for the belief based response to be generated. This creates a Type1/Type 2 conflict, explaining the impact of logic on belief based judgments. When explicitly instructed to reason logically, it takes deliberate Type 2 processing to arrive at the logical solution. The engagement in Type 2 processing in order to produce an explicit logical output is impacted on by demanding secondary tasks (RNG) and any task that interferes with the integration of premise information (Experiments 8 and 9) leading to increased latencies. However the relatively simple nature of the problems means that accuracy is less affected. We conclude that the type of instructions provided along with the complexity of the problem and the inhibitory demands of the task all play key roles in determining the difficulty and time course of logical and belief based responses.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Plymouth
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Handley, Simon, Supervisor
  • Walsh, Clare, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Apr 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • reasoning
  • belief-bias
  • dual process theories
  • working memory
  • executive function
  • individual differences

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