Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 208–216

Feeling we’re biased: Autonomic arousal and reasoning conflict


    • CNRS and University of Toulouse
  • Elke Moyens
    • University of Leuven
  • Debora Vansteenwegen
    • University of Leuven

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

Download to read the full article text

Supplementary material (45 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 340 KB.

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010