Mental Models and Human Reasoning

To be rational is to be able to reason. Thirty years ago psychologists believed that human reasoning depended on formal rules of inference akin to those of a logical calculus. This hypothesis ran into difficulties, which led to an alternative view: reasoning depends on envisaging the possibilities consistent with the starting point—a perception of the world, a set of assertions, a memory, or some mixture of them. We construct mental models of each distinct possibility and derive a conclusion from them. The theory predicts systematic errors in our reasoning, and the evidence corroborates this prediction. Yet, our ability to use counter examples to refute invalid inferences provides a foundation for rationality. On this account, reasoning is a simulation of the world fleshed out with our knowledge, not a formal rearrangement of the logical skeletons of sentences.


About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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