Disjunctive illusory inferences and how to eliminate them

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Description: The mental model theory of reasoning postulates that individuals construct mental models of the possibilities in which the premises of an inference hold and that these models represent what is true but not what is false. An unexpected consequence of this assumption is that certain premises should yield systematically invalid inferences. This prediction is unique among current theories of reasoning, because no alternative theory, whether based on formal rules of inference or on probabilistic considerations, predicts these illusory inferences. We report three studies of novel illusory inferences that depend on embedded disjunctions—for example, premises of this sort: A or else (B or else C). The theory distinguishes between those embedded disjunctions that should yield illusions and those that should not. In Experiment 1, we corroborated this distinction. In Experiment 2, we extended the illusory inferences to a more stringently controlled set of problems. In Experiment 3, we established a novel method for reducing illusions by calling for participants to make auxiliary inferences.

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