People make systematic errors when reasoning about durations

Laura Kelly presented new research on reasoning about durations at the 2019 London Reasoning Workshop. The abstract of her talk is here:

Few experiments have examined how people reason about durative relations, e.g., “during”. Such relations pose challenges to present theories of reasoning, but many researchers argue that people simulate a mental timeline when they think about sequences of events. A recent theory posits that to mentally simulate durative relations, reasoners do not represent all of the time points across which an event might endure. Instead, they construct discrete tokens that stand in place of the beginnings and endings of those events. The theory predicts that when reasoners need to build multiple simulations to solve a reasoning problem, they should be more prone to error. To test the theory, a series of experiments provided participants with sets of premises describing durative relations; they assessed whether the sets were consistent or inconsistent. Their ability to do so varied by whether the descriptions concerned one mental simulation or multiple simulations. We conclude by situating the study in recent work on temporal thinking.

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