Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 208–216

Feeling we’re biased: Autonomic arousal and reasoning conflict


DOI: 10.3758/CABN.10.2.208

Cite this article as:
De Neys, W., Moyens, E. & Vansteenwegen, D. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience (2010) 10: 208. doi:10.3758/CABN.10.2.208


Human reasoning is often biased by intuitive beliefs. A key question is whether the bias results from a failure to detect that the intuitions conflict with logical considerations or from a failure to discard these tempting intuitions. The present study addressed this unresolved debate by focusing on conflict-related autonomic nervous system modulation during biased reasoning. Participants’ skin conductance responses (SCRs) were monitored while they solved classic syllogisms in which a cued intuitive response could be inconsistent or consistent with the logical correct response. Results indicated that all reasoners showed increased SCRs when solving the inconsistent conflict problems. Experiment 2 validated that this autonomic arousal boost was absent when people were not engaged in an active reasoning task. The presence of a clear autonomic conflict response during reasoning lends credence to the idea that reasoners have a “gut” feeling that signals that their intuitive response is not logically warranted. Supplemental materials for this article may be downloaded from

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wim De Neys
    • 1
  • Elke Moyens
    • 2
  • Debora Vansteenwegen
    • 2
  1. 1.CNRS and University of ToulouseToulouseFrance
  2. 2.University of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Laboratoire CLLEMaison de la RechercheToulouse Cedex 9France