When is a conclusion worth deriving? A relevance-based analysis of indeterminate relational problems

Van der Henst, Jean-Baptiste and Politzer, Guy and Sperber, Dan (2001) When is a conclusion worth deriving? A relevance-based analysis of indeterminate relational problems. [Preprint]


There is a more recent version of this eprint available. Click here to view it.

Full text available as:

[img] HTML


When is a conclusion worth deriving? We claim that a conclusion is worth deriving to the extent that it is relevant in the sense of relevance theory (Sperber & Wilson, 1995). To support this hypothesis, we experiment with "indeterminate relational problems" where we ask participants what, if anything, follows from premises such as A is taller than B, A is taller than C. With such problems, the indeterminate response that nothing follows is common, and we explain why. We distinguish several types of determinate conclusions and show that their rate is a function of their relevance. We argue that by appropriately changing the formulation of the premises, the relevance of determinate conclusions can be increased, and the rate of indeterminate responses thereby reduced. We contrast these relevance-based predictions with predictions based on linguistic congruence.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:cognition, pragmatics, experimental psychology of reasoning, psycholinguistics, relevance, relevance theory, relational problems
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Linguistics > Pragmatics
Psychology > Psychobiology
ID Code:1886
Deposited By: Sperber, Dan
Deposited On:14 Nov 2001
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

Available Versions of this Item

References in Article

Select the SEEK icon to attempt to find the referenced article. If it does not appear to be in cogprints you will be forwarded to the paracite service. Poorly formated references will probably not work.

Bernard, J.-M. (1998). Bayesian inference for categorized data. In Rouanet, H. , Bernard, J.-M. , Bert, M.-C. , Lecoutre, B. , Lecoutre, M.-P. , & Le Roux, B. , New ways in statistical methodology, (pp. 159-228). Bern: Peter Lang.

Burt, C. (1919). The development of reasoning in school children. Journal of Experimental Pedagogy, 5, 68-77.

Byrne, R.M.J. & Johnson-Laird, P.N. (1989). Spatial reasoning. Journal of Memory and Language, 28, 564-575.

Carreiras, M. & Santamaría, C. (1997). Reasoning about relations: spatial and non-spatial problems. Thinking and Reasoning, 3, 191-208.Clark, H.H. (1969a). Linguistic processes in deductive reasoning. Psychological Review, 76, 387-404.

Clark, H.H. (1969b). Influence of language on solving three term series problems. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 82, 505-514

De Soto, C.B., London, M. & Handel, S. (1965). Social reasoning and spatial paralogic. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2, 293-307.

Evans, J.St.B.T. (1995). Relevance and reasoning. In S.E. Newstead and J.St.B.T Evans (Eds). Perspectives on thinking and reasoning. Hove, U.K: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Evans, J.St.B.T., Newstead, S.E., & Byrne, R.M.J. (1993). Human reasoning. The Psychology of Deduction. Hove, UK: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Grice, P. (1989). Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Hayes-Roth, B. & Hayes-Roth, F. (1975). Plasticity in memorial networks. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 14, 506-522.

Hilton, D.J. (1995). The social context of reasoning. Psychological Bulletin, 118, 248-271.

Hunter, I.M.L. (1957). The solving of three term series problems. British Journal of Psychology, 48, 286-298.

Huttenlocher, J. (1968). Constructing spatial images: a strategy in reasoning. Psychological Review, 75, 550-560.

Johnson-Laird, P.N. (1983). Mental Models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Johnson-Laird, P.N. & Byrne, R.J.M. (1991). Deduction. Hove, U.K: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Moeser, S.D. & Tarrant, B.L. (1977). Learning a network of comparisons. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 3, 643-659.

Mani, K. & Johnson-Laird, P.N. (1982). The mental representation of spatial descriptions. Memory and Cognition, 10, 181-187.Newstead, S.E., Mantkelow, K.I., & Evans, J.St.B.T. (1982). The role of imagery in the representation of linear orderings. Current Psychological Research, 2, 21-32.

Noveck, I.A. (2001). When children are more logical than adults: Investigations of scalar implicature. Cognition, 78, 165-188.Piaget, J (1921). Une forme verbale de la comparaison chez l'enfant. Archives de Psychologie, 141-172.

Politzer, G., & Noveck, I.A. (1991). Are conjunction rule violations the result of conversational rule violations? Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 20, 83-103.

Politzer, G., & Macchi, L. (2000). Reasoning and pragmatics. Mind and Society, 1, 73-93.

Potts, G.R. (1972). Information processing used in the encoding of linear orderings. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 16, 727-740.

Potts, G.R., & Scholz, K.W. (1975). The internal representation of three term series problems. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 14, 439-452.

Quinton, G. & Fellows, B.J. (1975). 'Percepual' strategies in the solving of three-term series problems. British Journal of Psychology, 66, 69-78.

Roberts, M.J. (2000). Strategies in relational inference. Thinking and Reasoning, 6¸ 1-26.

Sperber, D. & Wilson, D. (1995). Relevance: Communication and Cognition, Oxford: Blackwell. Second edition.

Sperber, D., Cara, F. & Girotto, V. (1995). Relevance theory explains the selection task. Cognition, 57, 31-95.

Thompson, V.A. (2000). The task specific nature of domain-general reasoning. Cognition, 76, 209-268.

Trabasso, T., Riley, C.A., & Wilson, E.G. (1975). The representation of linear order and spatial strategies in reasoning: a developmental study. In R. Falmagane (Ed.), Psychological studies of logic and its development. Hillsade, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Van der Henst, J.B. (1999). The mental model theory and spatial reasoning re-examined: the role of relevance in premise order. British Journal of Psychology, 90, 73-84.

Van der Henst, J.B. (2000). Mental model theory and pragmatics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 283-284.

Warner, S.A. & Griggs, R.A. (1980). Processing partially ordered information. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 6, 741-753.


Repository Staff Only: item control page