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Reasoning From Unfamiliar Premises. Maria Dias. 2005; Psychological...

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Psychological Science
Volume 16 Issue 7, Pages 550 - 554 Published Online: 8 Jul 2005 2009 Association for Psychological Science

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Research Article

Reasoning From Unfamiliar Premises


A Study With Unschooled Adults Maria Dias
1 1

, Antonio Roazzi

and Paul L. Harris

Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Brazil, and 2 Harvard University

Address correspondence to Paul L. Harris, Harvard Graduate School of Education, 503A Larsen Hall, Appian Way, Cambridge, MA 02138; e-mail: paul_harris@gse.harvard.edu.

Abstract
AbstractA long tradition of research initiated by Luria in the 1930s has established that unschooled adults perform poorly on reasoning tasks. Particularly when the premises are unfamiliar, they adopt an inappropriate empirical bias. However, recent findings show that young children with little or no schooling reason competently if prompted to think of the unfamiliar premises as pertaining to a distant planet. We tested two groups of adults: illiterate, unschooled adults and adults with limited schooling. Both groups received problems that included either a premise with unknown content or a premise contradicting their everyday experience. When given a minimal prompt, both groups manifested the customary empirical bias. By contrast, when explicitly prompted to think of the unfamiliar premises as pertaining to a distant planet, they reasoned accurately and appropriately justified their conclusions in terms of the supplied premises. (RECEIVED 6/14/04; ACCEPTED 8/9/04) DIGITAL OBJECT IDENTIFIER (DOI) 10.1111/j.0956-7976.2005.01573.x About DOI

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