, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 97–114 | Cite as

Logic in the study of psychiatric disorders: executive function and rule-following



Executive function has become an important concept in explanations of psychiatric disorders, but we currently lack comprehensive models of normal executive function and of its malfunctions. Here we illustrate how defeasible logical analysis can aid progress in this area. We illustrate using autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as example disorders, and show how logical analysis reveals commonalities between linguistic and non-linguistic behaviours within each disorder, and how contrasting sub-components of executive function are involved across disorders. This analysis reveals how logical analysis is as applicable to fast, automatic and unconscious reasoning as it is to slow deliberate cogitation.


Non-monotonic logic Executive function Autism ADHD 


  1. Berman R, Slobin De (1994) Relating events in narrative. Lawrence Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJGoogle Scholar
  2. Blankenstijn C, Scheper A (2003) Language development in children with psychiatric impairment. LOT, Utrecht. Published version of PhD thesisGoogle Scholar
  3. Byrne R (1989) Suppressing valid inferences with conditionals. Cognition 31:61–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clements W, Perner J (1994) Implicit understanding of belief. Cognitive Dev 9:377–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dieussaert K, Schaeken W, Schroyen W, d’Ydewalle G (2000) Strategies during complex conditional inferences. Think Reason 6(2):125–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Happé F (1994) Autism: an introduction to psychological theory. UCL Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Harris P (2000) The work of the imagination. Blackwell, Oxford and BostonGoogle Scholar
  8. Harvey A, Watkins E, Mansell W, Shafran R (2004) Cognitive behavioural processes across psychological disorders: a transdiagnostic approach to research and treatment. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  9. Hauser M (2003) Knowing about knowing: dissociations between perception and action systems over evolution and during development. Ann NY Acad Sci 1:1–25Google Scholar
  10. Hughes C, Russell J (1993) Autistic children’s difficulty with disengagement from an object: its implications for theories of autism. Dev Psychol 29:498–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Leslie A (1987) Pretence and representation: the origins of a ‘theory of mind’. Psychol Rev 94:412–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Marr D (1982) Vision: a computational investigation into the human representation and processing of visual information. WH Freeman, San FransiscoGoogle Scholar
  13. Onishi KH, Baillargeon R (2005) Do 15-month-old infants understand false beliefs? Science 308:255–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Pennington B, Ozonoff S (1996) Executive functions and developmental psychopathology. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 37:51–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Perner J, Leekham S, Wimmer H (1987). Three-year olds’ difficulty with false belief: the case for a conceptual deficit. Br J Dev Psychol 5:125–137Google Scholar
  16. Peterson DM, Bowler DM (2000) Counterfactual reasoning and false belief understanding in children with autism. Autism: Int J Res Practice 4(4):391–405Google Scholar
  17. Purvis K, Tannock R (1997) Language abilities in children with attention deficit disorder, reading disabilities, and normal controls. J Abnormal Child Psychol 25(2):133–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Riggs K, Peterson D (2000) Counterfactual reasoning in pre-school children: mental state and causal inferences. In: Mitchell P, Riggs K (eds) Children’s reasoning and the mind, chapter 5. Psychology Press, pp 87–100Google Scholar
  19. Ronald A, Happé F, Plomin R (2005) The genetic relationship between individual differences in social and nonsocial behaviours characteristic of autism. Dev Sci 8:444–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Russell J (1997) Autism as an executive disorder. Oxford University PressGoogle Scholar
  21. Russell J (2002) Cognitive theories of autism. In: Harrison J, Owen A (eds) Cognitive deficits in brain disorders. Dunitz, London, pp 295–323Google Scholar
  22. Shue K, Douglas V (1992) Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the frontal lobe syndrome. Brain Cognition 20(2):104–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Siegal M, Beattie K (1991) Where to look first for children’s knowledge of false beliefs. Cognition 38:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Smid H (2005) Reasoning with rules and exceptions in autism. Msc thesis, ILLC, Amsterdam. Available from Scholar
  25. Steedman M (1997) Temporality. In: van Benthem J, ter Meulen A (eds) Handbook of logic and language chapter 16. Elsevier Science, pp 895–938Google Scholar
  26. Stenning K, van Lambalgen M (2005) Semantic interpretation as reasoning in nonmonotonic logic: the real meaning of the suppression task. Cognitive Sci 29(6):919–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Stenning K, van Lambalgen M (2007) Human reasoning and cognitive science. MIT University Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  28. Tomasello M (2003) Constructing a language. A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Harvard University Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  29. Trabasso T, Stein N (1994) Using goal-plan knowledge to merge the past with the present and future in narrating events on line. In: Haith M, Benson J, Roberts R, Pennington B (eds) The development of future-oriented processes. University of Chicago Press, pp 323–352Google Scholar
  30. van Lambalgen M, Hamm F (2004) The proper treatment of events. Blackwell, Oxford and BostonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Communication Research CentreEdinburgh UniversityEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of HumanitiesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations