DS-2008-10: Looking for logic in all the wrong places: an investigation of language, literacy and logic in reasoning

DS-2008-10: Counihan, Marian (2008) Looking for logic in all the wrong places: an investigation of language, literacy and logic in reasoning. Doctoral thesis, University of Amsterdam.

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This dissertation provides a critical assessment of investigations
into logical reasoning ability as reported in the psychology of
reasoning literature. This is achieved through a combination of
original empirical research with theoretical analysis, using insights
from formal semantics and philosophy of language. In the first
chapter, the findings of an interview study with subjects with varying
but low education levels are presented. The aim of the chapter is to
engage with and challenge the negative conclusions reached in previous
studies with illiterate subjects. This is achieved by reanalysing the
typical responses with heightened attention to semantic and pragmatic
factors which shape subjects’ responses. Chapter 2 provides an
exploratory analysis of the everyday use of some terms used in
reasoning studies. Comparing everyday usage with typical usage of the
terms in reasoning studes enables us to explain why certain terms are
more difficult for some subjects than others. In Chapter 3 these
findings are placed in the context of the broader debate on the
cognitive consequences of literacy. The work of David Olson is
handled in detail, and an adapted version of his ‘literal meaning’
hypothesis is proposed to explain the difference between schooled and
unschooled subjects’ performance in reasoning tasks. Consideration of
the notion of ‘literal meaning’ feeds directly into the next chapter,
Chapter 4. This is the analytic backbone for the dissertation, as it
explains how much previous work in the psychology of reasoning has
relied on an oversimplified picture of the relations between natural
language, logic, and reasoning, giving rise to confusions about
logical form, its relation to meaning in general and to literal
meaning in particular. Finally, Chapter 5 reports on an interview
study on Wason’s original selection task, building on the work of
Stenning and van Lambalgen in this area. This chapter is intended to
show that, despite the criticisms of the previous chapter, standard
reasoning experiments can provide rich data for a positive theory of
human reasoning. The dissertation ends with a summary and concluding


Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Report Nr: DS-2008-10
Series Name: ILLC Dissertation (DS) Series
Year: 2008
Subjects: Language
Depositing User: Dr Marco Vervoort
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:16
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:16
URI: https://eprints.illc.uva.nl/id/eprint/2070

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