New papers in JCP

Two new papers, one on how children construct algorithms and another on spatial conditionals and illusory inferences, are now out in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology.

The first paper, by Monica Bucciarelli and colleagues, concerns how children use mental simulations to construct algorithms for abducing simple rearrangement problems. The abstract of the paper is here:

Experiments showed that children are able to create algorithms, that is, sequences of operations that solve problems, and that their gestures help them to do so. The theory of mental models, which is implemented in a computer program, postulates that the creation of algorithms depends on mental simulations that unfold in time. Gestures are outward signs of moves and they help the process. We tested 10-year-old children, because they can plan, and because they gesture more than adults. They were able to rearrange the order of 6 cars in a train (using a siding), and the difficulty of the task depended on the number of moves in minimal solutions (Experiment 1). They were also able to devise informal algorithms to rearrange the order of cars when they were not allowed to move the cars, and the difficulty of the task depended on the complexity of the algorithms (Experiment 2). When children were prevented from gesturing as they formulated algorithms, the accuracy of their algorithms declined by13% (Experiment 3). We discuss the implications of these results.

The second paper, by Marco Ragni and colleagues, is about how people reason about conditional relations and spatial transitivity. Its abstract is here:

Studies of reasoning often concern specialised domains such as conditional inferences or transitive inferences, but descriptions often cut across such domains, for example:

If the circle is to the left of the square then the triangle is to the right of the square. The square is to the right of the circle.
The triangle is to the right of the square.
Could all three of these assertions be true at the same time?

We report four experiments testing the mental model theory of such problems, which combine spatial transitivity and conditional relations. It predicts that reasoners should try to find a single mental model in which all the assertion hold:

○  □  Δ
Such problems should be easier than those that call for a model in which both clauses of the conditional are false, as when the conditional above occurs with:

The square is to the left of the circle. The triangle is to the left of the square.

In this case, most participants had the “illusion” that the set was inconsistent (Experiment 1). Analogous results occurred when participants evaluated whether a diagram, such as the one above, depicted a possible spatial arrangement (Experiment 2), and when they evaluated the consistency of a conditional and a conjunction (Experiment 3), and of sets of assertions that contained two conditionals (Experiment 4). The findings appear to be beyond the explanatory scope of theories of reasoning based on logical rules or on probabilities.

Head over to the Publications section of the website to download the papers.