Falsifying mental models: Testing the predictions of theories of syllogistic reasoning

Stephen E. Newstead*, Simon J. Handley, Ed Buck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Four experiments are reported that tested the claim, drawn from mental models theory, that reasoners attempt to construct alternative representations of problems that might falsify preliminary conclusions they have drawn. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to indicate which alternative conclusion(s) they had considered in a syllogistic reasoning task. In Experiments 2-4, participants were asked to draw diagrams consistent with the premises, on the assumption that these diagrams would provide insights into the mental representation being used. In none of the experiments was there any evidence that people constructed more models for multiple-model than for single-model syllogisms, nor was there any correlation between number of models constructed and overall accuracy. The results are interpreted as showing that falsification of the kind proposed by mental models theory may not routinely occur in reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-354
Number of pages11
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1999
Externally publishedYes


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