In experiments I-III, the mismatch principle was contrasted with the content factors probability and familiarity in the study of belief revision. It was tested whether they influence belief revision in a way similar to how their influence has been reported in deductive reasoning studies. This was found to be the case. Belief revision was guided mainly by the mismatch principle and probability. The results indicated that multiple belief revision strategies exist and that there was always one overruling strategy and another one modulating it. Probability and the use of mental models functioned as independent belief revision strategies. That is, people invested more belief in the conditional than in the categorical statement when the former contained a high probability. Similarly, when the conditional statement was of low probability, then people preferred to believe the categorical statement more. This finding is in line with the probability theories of human reasoning (Oaksford & Chater, 2001; Oaksford, et al., 2000). By contrast, when the conditional statement had a near 50% probability, then people converted to the use of mental models to resolve the inconsistency. That is, the categorical statement was believed more with MP problems and the conditional statement was believed more with MT problems, supporting the mental model theory (Johnson-Laird & Byrne, 2002; Johnson-Laird, et al., 2004). Familiarity did not lead to a distinctive belief revision strategies but rather modulated the strength of the utilization of mental models. That is, mental models were used to a greater extent with unfamiliar than with familiar inference problems. This was attributed to the fact that the unfamiliar material was entirely devoid of background information which makes people rely even more on the more abstract and general revision process of using mental models. Thus, people adjusted their belief in the conditional to the perceived probability of the conditional statement, leading to one of two belief revision strategies.
These former experiments showed a joint engagement of more specific knowledge-based revision processes knowledge-based on probability and a general models-knowledge-based process knowledge-based on mental models, as has been shown in reasoning performance. However, content factors are only a minor part of the orbit of possible factors leading to specific belief revision strategies. To uncover further strategies, the study of belief revision should go
beyond linguistic content. The focus will turn now on context factors. Chapter IV reports on an experiment that tested the first of two context factors under investigation here, namely ‘task instruction’. Task instructions have varied greatly in former belief revision studies (Byrne & Walsh, 2005; Elio, 1997; Elio & Pelletier, 1997; Dieussaert et al., 2000;
Politzer & Carles, 2001; Revlin, et al., 2001; Revlin, et al., 2005). Findings from Experiment III, in which medium probability inference problems were used, supported the mismatch principle. However, Experiment III applied only one kind of task instruction: asking the participants to choose the statement they believe more. In Experiment IV, the participants are asked either to choose which statement they believe more or which they believe less. By this, we wanted to investigate what influence phrasing of task instructions might have on model construction and in turn believe revision. Of additional interest was to find out which cognitive process is easier to perform for people. To control for the factors ‘probability’ and ‘familiarity’, the current experiment employed familiar medium-probability inference problems.
Hypothesis 1: Based on the findings from Experiment III, it is expected that the belief revision is resolved mainly by the mismatch principle with an underlying influence of task instruction.
Hypothesis 2: Belief revision is an easier performance when one is asked what to believe more instead of less, because the former is closer to daily use.
4.2. Experiment IV: Belief revision as a function of mental models and task instruction
Eighty participants (63 female, 17 men) aged 18 to 48 (M =22.64, SD = 3.71) participated in the current experiment. All participants were recruited from the University of Giessen. All had no basic knowledge of logic. They received a small monetary incentive (4 Euro) for taking part in the experiment.
A 2 (Inference problem: MP vs. MT) by 2 (Task Instruction: ‘believe more’ vs. ‘believe less’) within subject design was used with Task instruction as the between-groups factor.
The materials for the current experiment consisted of 12 conditionals with a near 50%
probability of occurrence taken from Evaluation studies I and II, performed by students from the same population (see Table 6). The conditionals did not significantly differ from one another with respect to probability, χ2 (11) = 8.751, p = .645. Of these 12 conditional statements, both MP and MT problems were constructed for the experiment. The participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions; one group (N = 40) received the instruction ‘Which of the first two statements do you believe more?’
(Hereafter called the ‘more’ condition) and the other group (N = 40) the instruction
‘Which of the first two statements do you believe less?’ (Henceforth the ‘less’ condition).
Table 6. List of conditionals used in Experiment IV
Medium-probability familiar conditionals
If Hendrik is sick, then he goes to work
If Hannah stays on shore, then it is stormy weather
If Hugo is allergic to fur-bearing animals, then he gets fish If Katharina cooks in the evening, then she prepares a rice dish If Sophia is at home on the weekend, then she works in the garden If Peter leaves his home, then he exists through the backdoor If Karl goes to work, then he takes the car
If Bruno is hungry, then he eats a cracker
If Volker wants to listen to music, then he puts on classical music If Kerstin visits a friend, then she brings flowers
If Christina is working in the office, then she leaves the door open If Heiko goes outside, then he puts on his sunglasses
The procedure for the current experiment followed the general procedure as described for Experiment I-III with the exception that the task instruction was varied between two groups of participants (as outlined above).
126.96.36.199. Belief revision choices
The overall belief in the conditional was 53.65 % (SD =20.56). Belief revision choices are depicted in Figure 12 as the mean preference for choosing the conditional or categorical statement. In the following, all effects are reported as significant at p<. 05. The revision choice data were submitted to a mixed between-within subjects ANOVA. This revealed a highly significant main effect of Inference problem, F(1,78) = 41.073, MSE = 0,046, p <
.0001, reflecting again the higher endorsement of the conditional for the MT problems (64.48%) compared with the MP problems (42.81%). There was no main effect of Task instruction, F (1, 78) = .905, MSE = 0.085, p =.344; the conditional premise was believed to an equal extent in the ‘more’ condition (55.84%) as in the ‘less’ condition (51.46%).
However, a significant Inference problem x Task instruction Interaction effect was obtained, F (1, 78) = 5.484, MSE = 0,046, p =.022. The interaction was further investigated using Independent Samples T-tests. With MT problems, the percentage of choosing to believe the conditional more was significantly higher in the ‘more’ condition (M =70.62, SD = 2.17) than in the ‘less’ condition (M = 58.33, SD = 2.70), t (78) = 2.247, p
= 027. Conversely, with MP problems the percentage of choosing to believe the conditional more was higher in the ‘less’ condition (M = 44.58, SD = 2.66) than in the
‘more’ condition (M = 41.04, SD = 2.65). However, this difference did not reach significance, t (78) = 0.597, p =.553.
Figure 12. Mean percentages of belief preferences as a function of task instruction.
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
MP_More MP_Less MT_More MT_Less
Belief preference (%)
188.8.131.52. Decision times
Figure 13 depicts the mean DTs for the four conditions. The analyses on the DT data did not elicit a main effect of Inference problem, F (1, 78) = .517, MSE = 1.985, p =.474; the DTs were similar for the MP (M = 8.35) and MT problems (M = 8.51). Also, no main effect appeared for Task instruction, F (1, 78) = 2.686, MSE = 10.256, p = .105. Being asked what to believe more resulted in comparable DTs (M = 7.84) as being asked what to believe less (M = 9.02). However, a significant Inference problem x Task instruction interaction emerged, F (1, 78) = 6.850, MSE =1.985, p =.011. Post-hoc tests revealed that for the MT problems, significantly faster decision times were obtained in the ‘more’ (M = 7.63 s.) then in the ‘less’ condition (M = 9.39 s.), t (78) = 2.384, p = .020. With MP problems, participants also made faster decisions in the ‘more’ (M = 8.05 sec.) than in the
‘less’ condition (M = 8.65 sec.), however this difference did not achieve significance, t (78)
= .774, p = .441.
Figure 13. Mean decision times in seconds as a function of task instruction.
0 2 4 6 8 10
MP_More MP_Less MT_More MT_Less
Decision time (s)
In both task instruction conditions, the revision choice pattern resonates with the mismatch principle; the categorical was more often chosen with MP problems and the conditional more frequently with MT problems. The interaction effect further demonstrates that this effect was more robust in the ‘more’ condition than in the ‘less’
condition, where the belief revision choices hovered around 50%. This demonstrated that task instruction has its shared effect on belief revision. This supports the first hypothesis. A possible explanation for this might be that in real life one focuses more readily on what to believe more since that represents the statement one chooses to adopt;
such thinking sets out a more straightforward cognitive path. The finding that in both task instruction conditions the participants applied the mismatch principle rules out the possibility that differences in task instruction explain the range of different belief revision responses in earlier research (Byrne & Walsh, 2005; Elio, 1997, Elio & Pelletier, 1997; Politzer & Carles, 2001).
Although the DTs in the ‘less’ condition were higher than those in the ‘more’ condition, this difference did not reach significance, which is not line with the second hypothesis.
However, the interaction effect can be explained in a similar fashion as was done for the DTs in earlier experiments. The fastest DTs when asked which statement one believes more with MT problems is most likely due to the fact that the question directs one’s thinking toward the match. When asked which statement one believes less with MT problems, the thinking is diverted from the match and toward the mismatch which entails a more complex cognitive process. This additionally supports the first hypothesis.
In short, the results from the Experiment IV suggest that directing people to choose the belief they favor instead of disfavor is a more solid approach.