, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 295-306

On the conflict between logic and belief in syllogistic reasoning

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Abstract

Three experiments are reported that investigate the weighting attached to logic and belief in syllogistic reasoning. Substantial belief biases were observed despite controls for possible conversions of the premises. Equally substantial effects of logic were observed despite controls for two possible response biases. A consistent interaction between belief and logic was also recorded; belief bias was more marked on invalid than on valid syllogisms. In all experiments, verbal protocols were recorded and analyzed. These protocols are interpreted in some cases as providing rationalizations for prejudiced decisions and, in other cases, as reflecting a genuine process of premise to conclusion reasoning. In the latter cases, belief bias was minimal but still present. Similarly, even subjects who focus primarily on the conclusion are influenced to an extent by the logic. Thus a conflict between logic and belief is observed throughout, but at several levels of extent.

The manuscript was prepared for publication while the first author was on sabbatical leave at the University of Florida.