Article

Mental models and temporal reasoning.

Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Belgium.
Cognition (Impact Factor: 3.16). 10/1996; 60(3):205-34. DOI:10.1016/0010-0277(96)00708-1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We report five experiments investigating reasoning based on temporal relations, such as: "John takes a shower before he drinks coffee". How individuals make temporal inferences has not been studied hitherto, but we conjectured that they construct mental models of events, and we developed a computer program that reasons in this way. As the program shows, a problem of the form: a before b b before c d while b e while c What is the relation between d and e? where a, b, c, etc. refer to everyday events, calls for just one model, whereas a problem in which the second premise is modified to c before b calls for multiple models because a may occur before c, after c, or at the same time as c. Experiments 1-3 showed that problems requiring one mental model elicited more correct responses than problems requiring multiple models, which in turn elicited more correct answers than multiple model problems with no valid answers. Experiment 4 contrasted the predictions of the model theory with those based on formal rules of inference; its results corroborated the model theory. Experiment 5 confirmed that a premise leading to multiple models took longer to read than the corresponding premise in one-model problems, and that latency to respond correctly was greater for multiple-model problems than for one-model problems. We conclude that the experiments corroborate the mental model theory.

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Sep 12, 2013