The Conflicting Interaction of Belief-bias and Logicality in Syllogistic Reasoning Tasks

Topics: Logic, Reasoning, Deductive reasoning Pages: 15 (2219 words) Published: January 7, 2009
The conflicting interaction of belief-bias
and logicality in syllogistic reasoning tasks


The study conducted replicated Evans (1983) experiment to investigate the

presence of believe-bias in syllogistic reasoning tasks, using an equal number of male

and female participants to avoid gender differences in the results. The findings

showed there was an interaction between believability and logicality, suggesting that

dual-processing theories influenced the results. The Implicit and the Explicit systems

interacted together, where there was a conflict between belief-bias and logicality.


Belief bias and confirmation bias are two related phenomena. While belief

bias refers to making a biased evaluation of the evidence that is found, confirmation

bias is a tendency to look for evidence that justifies a prior belief, avoiding conflicting

evidence. There has been a long established connection between belief bias literature

and syllogistic reasoning, where subjects are encouraged to engage in deductive

reasoning, drawing conclusions that follow only from the premises given and

apparently the subjects are not able to distinguish between judgments of validity and

judgments of real world truthful value (Evans & Over, 1996).

Also, there is an idea about human thought that has been around for a long

time, it argues that reasoning is separated into two distinct kinds of cognitive systems

with different evolutionary histories. These systems are referred to as Implicit (system

1) and Explicit (system 2) (Evans & Over, 1996 and Reber, 1993 cited in Evans,

2003), even though some dual-process theorists would rather emphasizing the

functional distinctions between the two systems leaving the relation to consciousness

open (Sloman, 1996 & 2002 cited in Evans, 2003).

Firstly, the Implicit system is explained as a universal form of cognition

experienced by humans and animals. It is a group of sub-systems operating with

certain autonomy (Stanovich & West, 2003 & Stanovich, 2004 cited in Evans, 2003).

This system includes instinctive behaviours, but also includes processes formed

through associative learning produced by neural networks (McLeod, 1998 cited in

Evans, 2003); and its processes are quick, automatic and parallel in nature: the final

product created is the only one posted into consciousness (Evans, 2003).

Secondly, the Explicit system is believed to be uniquely human by most of the

theorists, and is thought to have evolved a lot more recently than the Implicit system.

The Explicit system is slow and sequential, making use of the central working

memory system (Baddeley, 2000 & Gathercole, 2003 cited in Evans, 2003). It has a

limited capacity and operates slowly but it allows abstract hypothetical thinking,

being a distinctly human skill of great importance, which can not be produced by the

Implicit system (Evans, 2003).

In addition, the most extensively aspect studied about deductive reasoning is

the ability to solve syllogisms, the only kind of argument whose properties were well

understood from ancient Greece up to the middle of last century. Syllogisms have two

premises, each of them must be in one of the four forms: A) All A are B, I) Some A

are B, E) No A are B and O) Some A are not B. The letters A, I, E, O, referred as the

“moods of premises”, derive from the first two vowels of the latin words AffIrmo and

nEgO, me (Garnham & Oakhill, 1994).

For example, one of the first biases to be identified derives from studies of

Aristotelian syllogisms using realistic material, where subjects are presented with four

arguments: 1) All the athletes are healthy, some healthy people are wealthy, some of

the athletes are wealthy (believable & logical), 2) All the students are poor, no

students are...

References: Baddeley, A. (2000) The episodic buffer: A new component of working memory? Trends
In Cognitive Science 4, 417–423.
Evans, J. St. B. T. & Barston, J. L. & Pollard, P. (1983) On the conflict between logic and
belief in syllogistic reasoning
Evans, J. St. B. T. & Over, D. E. (1996) Rationality and Reasoning. Psychology Press.
Evans, J. St. B. T. (2003) In two minds: dual-process accounts of reasoning. Trends in
Cognitive Sciences
Garnham, A. & Oakhill, J. (1994) Thinking and Reasoning. Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Gathercole, S. (2003) Short-term and Working Memory, Taylor and Francis.
McLeod, P. et al. (1998) Introduction To Connectionist Modelling Of Cognitive
Processes, Oxford University Press.
Manktelow, K. (1999) Reasoning and Thinking. Psychology Press.
Reber, A.S. (1993) Implicit Learning and Tacit Knowledge, Oxford University Press.
Sloman, S.A. (1996) The empirical case for two systems of reasoning. Psychological
Sloman, S.A. (2002) In Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment
(Gilovich, T
Stanovich, K.E. andWest, R.F. (2003) In Evolution and the Psychology of Thinking
(Over, D.E., ed.), pp
Stanovich, K.E. (2004) The Robot’s Rebellion: Finding Meaning In The Age Of Darwin,
Chicago University Press.
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