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.
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