A computational cognitive theory of temporal reasoning
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Description: I describe a novel model-based theory of how individuals reason deductively about temporal relations. It posits that temporal assertions refer to mental models -- iconic representations of possibilities -- of events. In line with recent accounts of spatial reasoning, the theory posits that individuals tend to build a single preferred model of a temporal description. The more models necessary to yield a correct answer, the harder that problem is. The theory is implemented in a computer program, mReasoner, which draws temporal deductions by building models. It varies three parameters governing separate factors in the process: the size of a model, the typicality of its contents, and the propensity to search for alternative models. Two experiments corroborat the predictions of the theory and its computational implementation. I conclude by discussing temporal and relational inference more broadly.