Strategies in social reasoning and on disconfirming belief in false claims

A pair of new papers from Henry Markovits’ laboratory at UQAM focus on reasoning strategies in everyday social contexts. In a new paper in JEP:G, Émile Gagnon-St-Pierre and colleagues show how individual differences in the ability to search for counterexamples affects reasoning about socially relevant issues such as stereotypes, sexism, and racism. The abstract is here:

The dual-strategy model of reasoning suggests that when people reason they can either use (a) a statistical strategy which generates an estimation of conclusion likelihood using a rapid form of associative processing or (b) a counterexample strategy which identifies potential counterexamples to a conclusion using a more conscious working memory intensive process. Previous results suggest that strategy use is a strong individual difference that represents a broad distinction in the way that information is processed that goes beyond deductive reasoning. In 3 studies, we examined if this model could predict individual differences in the processing of social information by examining socially relevant cognitive biases. Study 1 found that strategy use predicted the extent of the self-serving bias. Study 2 found that strategy use predicted use of racist stereotypes even when need for closure was accounted for. Study 3 found that an essentialist prime resulted in a higher level of gender bias among statistical reasoners but that this prime had no effect on counterexample reasoners. These results indicate that the processing distinction between the 2 reasoning strategies underlies individual differences in social biases such as stereotypes, sexism, and racism.

And the paper is accessible here [paywall].

Another paper on reasoning strategies is out in Memory & Cognition; in it, Cloé Gratton and Henry Markovits examine how reasoning strategies — in particular, disconfirmation behavior using counterexamples — help to lower belief in false claims. The abstract is here:

The dual-strategy model of reasoning proposes that people tend to use one of two reasoning strategies: either a statistical or a counterexample strategy, with the latter being more sensitive to potential counterexamples to a given conclusion. Previous studies have examined the effects of reasoning strategy in a variety of contexts. In the present study, we looked at the effects of gist repetition and disconfirmation on belief in an unknown claim. This is particularly interesting since there is no single normative analysis of this situation. We examine the hypotheses that (a) increasing gist repetition will result in higher levels of belief with both counterexample and statistical reasoners, and (b) that counterexample reasoners will have lower belief levels following a single disconfirming instance than will statistical reasoners. In a large-scale online study, over 2,000 adult participants received a False Claim procedure along with a Strategy Diagnostic. Results are consistent with the hypotheses. This provides strong evidence that the dual-strategy model captures a clear difference in information processing that is not captured by any normative/non-normative distinction.

And the paper is accessible here [paywall].

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