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Helping Reasoners Succeed in the Wason Selection Task: When Executive Learning Discourages Heuristic Response but Does Not Necessarily Encourage Logic

Abstract : Reasoners make systematic logical errors by giving heuristic responses that reflect deviations from the logical norm. Influential studies have suggested first that our reasoning is often biased because we minimize cognitive effort to surpass a cognitive conflict between heuristic response from system 1 and analytic response from system 2 thinking. Additionally , cognitive control processes might be necessary to inhibit system 1 responses to activate a system 2 response. Previous studies have shown a significant effect of executive learning (EL) on adults who have transferred knowledge acquired on the Wason selection task (WST) to another isomorphic task, the rule falsification task (RFT). The original paradigm consisted of teaching participants to inhibit a classical matching heuristic that sufficed the first problem and led to significant EL transfer on the second problem. Interestingly, the reasoning tasks differed in inhibiting-heuristic metacognitive cost. Success on the WST requires half-suppression of the matching elements. In contrast, the RFT necessitates a global rejection of the matching elements for a correct answer. Therefore, metacognitive learning difficulty most likely differs depending on whether one uses the first or second task during the learning phase. We aimed to investigate this difficulty and various matching-bias inhibition effects in a new (reversed) paradigm. In this case, the transfer effect from the RFT to the WST could be more difficult because the reasoner learns to reject all matching elements in the first task. We observed that the EL leads to a significant reduction in matching selections on the WST without increasing logical performances. Interestingly, the acquired metacognitive knowledge was too "strictly" transferred and discouraged matching rather than encouraging logic. This finding underlines the complexity of learning transfer and adds new evidence to the pedagogy of reasoning.
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Sandrine Rossi, Mathieu Cassotti, Sylvain Moutier, Nicolas Delcroix, Olivier Houdé. Helping Reasoners Succeed in the Wason Selection Task: When Executive Learning Discourages Heuristic Response but Does Not Necessarily Encourage Logic. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10 (4), pp.e0123024. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0123024⟩. ⟨hal-02086850⟩

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