Mike Oaksford

Mike Oaksford
Birkbeck, University of London · Department of Psychological Sciences

PhD, DSc, FBPsS, FAPS

About

195
Publications
51,755
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9,162
Citations
Citations since 2017
14 Research Items
2459 Citations
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Introduction
My research concerns experimental investigations and modelling of people's reasoning and argumentation. From a logical point of view, people make many errors in their reasoning but from a probabilistic point of view, these are not 'errors' but the result of people's sensitivity to Bayesian argument strength rather than logical validity.We have applied this approach to argumentative fallacies as well as deductive reasoning and are applying it to belief revision more generally.
Additional affiliations
October 2005 - February 2022
Birkbeck, University of London
Position
  • Head of Department
Education
October 1985 - September 1988
The University of Edinburgh
Field of study
  • Cognitive Science
October 1982 - July 1985
Durham University
Field of study
  • Philosophy and Psychology

Publications

Publications (195)
Article
Full-text available
This paper is a Foreward to a special edition of Cognitive Studies (vol. 29, pp. 327-330) on Rationality.
Article
Knauff and Gazzo Castañeda (2022) object to using the term “new paradigm” to describe recent developments in the psychology of reasoning. This paper concedes that the Kuhnian term “paradigm” may be queried. What cannot is that the work subsumed under this heading is part of a new, progressive movement that spans the brain and cognitive sciences: Ba...
Article
Psychologists are beginning to uncover the rational basis for many of the biases revealed over the last 50 years in deductive and causal reasoning, judgment, and decision making. In this article, it is argued that a manipulation, experiential learning, shown to be effective in judgment and decision making, may elucidate the rational underpinning of...
Article
The psychology of verbal reasoning initially compared performance with classical logic. In the last 25 years, a new paradigm has arisen, which focuses on knowledge-rich reasoning for communication and persuasion and is typically modeled using Bayesian probability theory rather than logic. This paradigm provides a new perspective on argumentation, e...
Article
Hinterecker, Knauff, and Johnson-Laird (2016) compared the adequacy of the probabilistic new paradigm in reasoning with the recent revision of mental models theory (MMT) for explaining a novel class of inferences containing the modal term "possibly." For example, the door is closed or the window is open or both, therefore, possibly the door is clos...
Article
Mercier and Sperber illuminate many aspects of reasoning and rationality, providing refreshing and thoughtful analysis and elegant and well‐researched illustrations. They make a good case that reasoning should be viewed as a type of intuition, rather than a separate cognitive process or system. Yet questions remain. In what sense, if any, is reason...
Article
Hinterecker et al. (2016) compared the adequacy of the probabilistic new paradigm in reasoning with the recent revision of mental models theory (MMT) for explaining a novel class of inferences containing the modal term “possibly”. For example, the door is closed or the window is open or both, therefore, possibly the door is closed and the window is...
Article
Full-text available
Lake et al. argue persuasively that modelling human-like intelligence requires flexible, compositional representations in order to embody world knowledge. But human knowledge is too sparse and self-contradictory to be embedded in “intuitive theories.” We argue, instead, that knowledge is grounded in exemplar-based learning and generalization, combi...
Article
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This article features an interdisciplinary debate and dialogue about the nature of mind, perception, and rationality. Scholars from a range of disciplines — cognitive science, applied and experimental psychology, behavioral economics, and biology — offer critiques and commentaries of a target article by Felin, Koenderink, and Krueger (2017): “Ratio...
Conference Paper
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The inference of or-introduction, p, therefore p or q, is fundamental in classical logic and probability theory. Yet traditional research in the psychology of reasoning found that people did not endorse this inference as highly as other one-premise valid inferences. A radical response to this finding is to claim that or-introduction is in fact inva...
Chapter
Book synopsis: Causal reasoning is one of our most central cognitive competencies, enabling us to adapt to our world. Causal knowledge allows us to predict future events, or diagnose the causes of observed facts. We plan actions and solve problems using knowledge about cause-effect relations. Although causal reasoning is a component of most of our...
Article
Full-text available
Cross-cultural differences in argumentation may be explained by the use of different norms of reasoning. However, some norms derive from, presumably universal, mathematical laws. This inconsistency can be resolved, by considering that some norms of argumentation, like Bayes theorem, are mathematical functions. Systematic variation in the inputs may...
Article
Full-text available
Recent research comparing mental models theory and causal Bayes nets for their ability to account for discounting and augmentation inferences in causal conditional reasoning had some limitations. One of the experiments used an ordinal scale and multiple items and analysed the data by subjects and items. This procedure can create a variety of proble...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The centering inference - p & q, therefore if p then q - is important in reasoning research because it is logically valid for some accounts of conditionals (e. g. the material and the probability conditionals), but not for others (e. g. the inferential conditional, according to which a conditional is true if and only if there is an inferential conn...
Chapter
Book synopsis: In recent years the psychology of reasoning has undergone radical change, which can only be seen as a Kuhn-style scientific revolution. This shift has been dubbed ?New Paradigm?. For years, psychologists of reasoning focused on binary truth values and regarded the influence of belief as a bias. In contrast to this, the new paradigm p...
Article
Reasoning and decision making are error prone. This is often attributed to a fast, phylogenetically old System 1. It is striking, however, that perceptuo-motor decision making in humans and animals is rational. These results are consistent with perceptuo-motor strategies emerging in Bayesian brain theory that also appear in human data selection. Pe...
Article
Oaksford and Chater (201452. Oaksford, M., & Chater, N. (2014). Probabilistic single function dual process theory and logic programming as approaches to non-monotonicity in human vs. artificial reasoning. Thinking and Reasoning, 20, 269–295. doi:10.1080/13546783.2013.877401View all references, Thinking and Reasoning, 20, 269–295) critiqued the logi...
Chapter
Book synopsis: This volume contributes to a current debate within the psychology of thought that has wide implications for our ideas about creativity, decision making, and economic behavior. The essays focus on the role of implicit, unconscious thinking in creativity and problem solving, the interaction of intuition and analytic thinking, and the r...
Book
Full-text available
This volume contributes to a current debate within the psychology of thought that has wide implications for our ideas about creativity, decision making, and economic behavior. The essays focus on the role of implicit, unconscious thinking in creativity and problem solving, the interaction of intuition and analytic thinking, and the relationship bet...
Article
Full-text available
In a recent article in this journal, Johnson–Laird and colleagues argue that mental models theory (MMT) can integrate logical and probabilistic reasoning [1]. We argue that Johnson-Laird and colleagues make a radical revision of MMT, but to ill effect. This can best be seen in what they say about truth and validity (Box 1). Formerly ([2], p. 651),...
Article
Full-text available
In a recent article in this journal, Johnson-Laird and colleagues argue that mental model theory (MMT) can integrate logical and probabilistic reasoning. We argue that Johnson-Laird and colleagues make a radical revision of MMT, but to ill effect.
Article
When directed to ignore evidence of a witness's previous bad character because of a violation of the rules of evidence, are jurors' beliefs still affected? The intuition is that they will be because in everyday argumentation, fallacies, like the ad hominem, are effective argumentative strategies. An ad hominem argument (against the person) undermin...
Article
The Bayesian approach to the psychology of reasoning generalizes binary logic, extending the binary concept of consistency to that of coherence, and allowing the study of deductive reasoning from uncertain premises. Studies in judgment and decision making have found that people's probability judgments can fail to be coherent. We investigated people...
Article
Full-text available
There has been a great expansion of research into human reasoning at all of Marr’s explanatory levels. There is a tendency for this work to progress within a level largely ignoring the others which can lead to slippage between levels (Chater et al., 2003). It is argued that recent brain imaging research on deductive reasoning—implementational level...
Article
Full-text available
The Bayesian approach to the psychology of reasoning generalizes binary logic, extending the binary concept of consistency to that of coherence, and allowing the study of deductive reasoning from uncertain premises. Studies in judgment and decision making have found that people’s probability judgments can fail to be coherent. We investigated people...
Chapter
The role of probabilistic reasoning in moral decision making has seen relatively little research, despite having potentially profound consequences for our models of moral cognition. To rectify this, two experiments were undertaken in which participants were presented with moral dilemmas with additional information designed to anchor judgements abou...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, it is argued that single function dual process theory is a more credible psychological account of non-monotonicity in human conditional reasoning than recent attempts to apply logic programming (LP) approaches in artificial intelligence to these data. LP is introduced and among other critiques, it is argued that it is psychologically...
Article
Full-text available
It has been suggested that evaluative normativity should be expunged from the psychology of reasoning. A broadly Davidsonian response to these arguments is presented. It is suggested that two distinctions, between different types of rationality, are more permeable than this argument requires and that the fundamental objection is to selecting theori...
Chapter
Book synopsis: The interaction between emotion and cognition is a fundamental issue which has only recently been reintroduced as a legitimate object of study in experimental psychology. This book examines the significant impact that affective processes have on reasoning, and demonstrates how emotional reasoning cannot simply be equated with faulty...
Chapter
Book synopsis: Relevant to, and drawing from, a range of disciplines, the chapters in this collection show the diversity, and applicability, of research in Bayesian argumentation. Together, they form a challenge to philosophers versed in both the use and criticism of Bayesian models who have largely overlooked their potential in argumentation. Sele...
Article
Full-text available
One of the principal motivations for the new paradigm in reasoning was a reaction to the old (binary truth functional) paradigm's inability to deal with everyday non-monotonic inference. Within the new paradigm the problem of non-monotonicity is recast as the problem of belief revision or dynamic inference; that is, what happens when the probabilit...
Article
This paper is a comment on the recent criticism of the argumentative theory of reasoning that falsification is not always rational even in a group context because an isolated hypothesis can always be saved from refutation by adjustments elsewhere in the web of belief of which it is a part. It is argued that this insight is captured by the epistemic...
Article
Judea Pearl has argued that counterfactuals and causality are central to intelligence, whether natural or artificial, and has helped create a rich mathematical and computational framework for formally analyzing causality. Here, we draw out connections between these notions and various current issues in cognitive science, including the nature of men...
Article
This comment suggests that Pothos & Busmeyer (P&B) do not provide an intuitive rational foundation for quantum probability (QP) theory to parallel standard logic and classical probability (CP) theory. In particular, the intuitive foundation for standard logic, which underpins CP, is the elimination of contradictions – that is, believing p and not-...
Article
This comment suggests that Pothos & Busmeyer (P&B) do not provide an intuitive rational foundation for quantum probability (QP) theory to parallel standard logic and classical probability (CP) theory. In particular, the intuitive foundation for standard logic, which underpins CP, is the elimination of contradictions – that is, believing p and not-p...
Chapter
Book synopsis: Relevant to, and drawing from, a range of disciplines, the chapters in this collection show the diversity, and applicability, of research in Bayesian argumentation. Together, they form a challenge to philosophers versed in both the use and criticism of Bayesian models who have largely overlooked their potential in argumentation. Sele...
Article
It has been argued that dual process theories are not consistent with Oaksford and Chater’s probabilistic approach to human reasoning (Oaksford and Chater in Psychol Rev 101:608–631, 1994, 2007; Oaksford et al. 2000), which has been characterised as a “single-level probabilistic treatment[s]” (Evans 2007). In this paper, it is argued that this char...
Article
Thinking and reasoning, long the academic province of philosophy, have emerged over the past century as core topics of empirical investigation and theoretical analysis in the modern fields of cognitive psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience. Formerly seen as too complicated and amorphous to be included in early textbooks on the s...
Article
Full-text available
Reasoning researchers within cognitive psychology have spent decades examining the extent to which human inference measures up to normative standards. Work here has been dominated by logic, but logic has little to say about most everyday, informal arguments. Empirical work on argumentation within psychology and education has studied the development...
Article
Full-text available
Book synopsis: Provides a comprehensive treatment of thinking and reasoning, authored by top researchers in each field Includes in-depth analysis of inductive, deductive and abductive reasoning; variable aspects of thinking and reasoning across the human lifespan; and methods of teaching people to think more effectively Thinking and reasoning, long...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The German cognitive science conference is an interdisciplinary event where researchers from different disciplines -- mainly from artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, and anthropology -- and application areas -- such as eduction, clinical psychology, and human-machine interaction -- bring tog...
Article
Book synopsis: The conditional, if...then, is probably the most important term in natural language and forms the core of systems of logic and mental representation. It occurs in all human languages and allows people to express their knowledge of the causal or law-like structure of the world and of others' behaviour, e.g., if you turn the key the ca...
Article
Full-text available
Book synopsis: Provides a comprehensive treatment of thinking and reasoning, authored by top researchers in each field Includes in-depth analysis of inductive, deductive and abductive reasoning; variable aspects of thinking and reasoning across the human lifespan; and methods of teaching people to think more effectively Thinking and reasoning, lon...
Article
Book synopsis: The rational analysis method, first proposed by John R. Anderson, has been enormously influential in helping us understand high-level cognitive processes. 'The Probabilistic Mind' is a follow-up to the influential and highly cited 'Rational Models of Cognition' (OUP, 1998). It brings together developments in understanding how, and h...
Article
The conditional, if...then, is probably the most important term in natural language and forms the core of systems of logic and mental representation. It occurs in all human languages and allows people to express their knowledge of the causal or law-like structure of the world and of others' behaviour, e.g., if you turn the key the car starts, if Jo...
Chapter
Book synopsis: A broad, engaging introduction to cognitive psychology, which encourages students to become actively involved in their learning. Chapters from internationally recognised experts, carefully edited by experienced instructors to lead students through the subject in a coherent way. Boxes throughout link the theory of cognitive psychology...
Chapter
Book synopsis: Cognitive science is a cross-disciplinary enterprise devoted to understanding the nature of the mind. In recent years, investigators in philosophy, psychology, the neurosciences, artificial intelligence, and a host of other disciplines have come to appreciate how much they can learn from one another about the various dimensions of co...
Article
Full-text available
Many factors point to the underlying instability of preferences in choice behavior. In particular, discounting reveals some effects not consistent with stable preferences. In discounting, the subjective value of a reward reduces as the uncertainty of or delay to obtaining it increases. The function relating subjective value to delay or probability...
Article
Mere facts about how the world is cannot determine how we ought to think or behave. Elqayam & Evans (E&E) argue that this "is-ought fallacy" undercuts the use of rational analysis in explaining how people reason, by ourselves and with others. But this presumed application of the "is-ought" fallacy is itself fallacious. Rational analysis seeks to ex...
Article
If Bayesian Fundamentalism existed, Jones & Love's (J&L's) arguments would provide a necessary corrective. But it does not. Bayesian cognitive science is deeply concerned with characterizing algorithms and representations, and, ultimately, implementations in neural circuits; it pays close attention to environmental structure and the constraints of...
Article
Four experiments investigated the effects of transactional content on temporal and probabilistic discounting of costs. Kusev, van Schaik, Ayton, Dent, and Chater (2009) have shown that content other than gambles can alter decision-making behavior even when associated value and probabilities are held constant. Transactions were hypothesized to lead...
Article
If Bayesian Fundamentalism existed, Jones & Love's (J&L's) arguments would provide a necessary corrective. But it does not. Bayesian cognitive science is deeply concerned with characterizing algorithms and representations, and, ultimately, implementations in neural circuits; it pays close attention to environmental structure and the constraints of...
Article
In this paper, two experiments are reported investigating the nature of the cognitive representations underlying causal conditional reasoning performance. The predictions of causal and logical interpretations of the conditional diverge sharply when inferences involving pairs of conditionals—such as if P1 then Q and if P2 then Q—are considered. Fro...
Article
There has been a recent explosion in research applying Bayesian models to cognitive phenomena. This development has resulted from the realization that across a wide variety of tasks the fundamental problem the cognitive system confronts is coping with uncertainty. From visual scene recognition to on-line language comprehension, from categorizing st...
Chapter
Book synopsis: This volume is a state-of-the-art survey of the psychology of reasoning, based around, and in tribute to, one of the field’s most eminent figures: Jonathan St B.T. Evans
Article
Background Social problem solving therapy is one helpful approach to treating people with personality disorders (PD). Consequently, it is worthwhile to develop a greater understanding of the role of social problem solving in PD. One hypothesis is that social problem solving mediates the relationship between personality dimensions and personality di...
Chapter
Full-text available
Book synopsis: The conditional, if...then, is probably the most important term in natural language and forms the core of systems of logic and mental representation. It occurs in all human languages and allows people to express their knowledge of the causal or law-like structure of the world and of others' behaviour, e.g., if you turn the key the ca...
Book
The conditional, if...then, is probably the most important term in natural language and forms the core of systems of logic and mental representation. It occurs in all human languages and allows people to express their knowledge of the causal or law-like structure of the world and of others' behaviour. The way in which the conditional is modelled al...
Chapter
Book synopsis: The conditional, if...then, is probably the most important term in natural language and forms the core of systems of logic and mental representation. It occurs in all human languages and allows people to express their knowledge of the causal or law-like structure of the world and of others' behaviour, e.g., if you turn the key the ca...
Article
Full-text available
This article traces the philosophical and psychological connections between causation and the conditional, if...then, across the two main paradigms used in conditional reasoning, the selection task and the conditional inference paradigm. It is argued that hypothesis testing in the selection task reflects the philosophical problems identified by Qui...
Article
Inductive logic facilitates many promising developments in the attempt to understand human cognition. An inductive logic is a system for reasoning that derives conclusions, which are plausible or credible, but are nonetheless not certain. This chapter introduces the ways in which inductive logic is applied in empirical psychology to provide models...
Article
Over the last 15 years or so, the psychology of reasoning has been in transition-from an emphasis on how far people are aware of, and can reason about, deductive relations between beliefs, to an emphasis on how far people are aware of, and can reason about, probabilistic relations between degrees of belief. One strand of this work is described in o...
Article
Full-text available
According to Aristotle, humans are the rational animal. The borderline between rationality and irrationality is fundamental to many aspects of human life including the law, mental health, and language interpretation. But what is it to be rational? One answer, deeply embedded in the Western intellectual tradition since ancient Greece, is that ration...
Article
Full-text available
Human cognition requires coping with a complex and uncertain world. This suggests that dealing with uncertainty may be the central challenge for human reasoning. In Bayesian Rationality we argue that probability theory, the calculus of uncertainty, is the right framework in which to understand everyday reasoning. We also argue that probability theo...
Article
In this comment, it is argued that the modification of mental models theory of conditional inference proposed by P. Barrouillet, C. Gauffroy, and J.-F. Lecas to deal with truth value gaps merely patches up a problem in the theory, rather than accomplishing the fundamental and systematic revision that is necessary. It is argued that P. Barrouillet e...
Article
In Barrouillet, Gauffroy, and Lecas's postscript to the current authors original comment on Barrouillet, Gauffroy, and Lecas's original article, they made four clearly argued points. First, they argued that they had provided a clear rationale for truth value gaps. This misses the point of what a computational-level explanation means. Such an explan...
Chapter
Book synopsis: This interdisciplinary work is a collection of major essays on reasoning: deductive, inductive, abductive, belief revision, defeasible (non-monotonic), cross cultural, conversational, and argumentative. They are each oriented toward contemporary empirical studies. The book focuses on foundational issues, including paradoxes, fallacie...
Article
This study was based on the clinical observation that patients receiving haemodialysis(HD) showed poor retention for complex verbal information. To investigate this hypothesis, 45 patients with endstage renal disease were administered a neuropsychological (NP) test battery, including a test of prose recall on two occasions, 7 days apart (pre-dialys...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the influence of pragmatic factors on reasoning - focusing on a prima facie puzzle for both logical and probabilistic accounts of reasoning: the asymmetry between modus ponens (MP) and modus tollens (MT) inferences in conditional reasoning. It discusses the account of the conditional developed by Adams. It shows that when ap...
Article
Book synopsis: The rational analysis method, first proposed by John R. Anderson, has been enormously influential in helping us understand high-level cognitive processes. 'The Probabilistic Mind' is a follow-up to the influential and highly cited 'Rational Models of Cognition' (OUP, 1998). It brings together developments in understanding how, and h...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter aims to reflect on themes and points of difference raised in the book; consider relationships between this work and broader developments in the cognitive sciences; and to give some personal views concerning possible future directions for the field. It draws out themes which discuss: the meaning of rational analysis; whether probability...
Chapter
Book synopsis: The rational analysis method, first proposed by John R. Anderson, has been enormously influential in helping us understand high-level cognitive processes. 'The Probabilistic Mind' is a follow-up to the influential and highly cited 'Rational Models of Cognition' (OUP, 1998). It brings together developments in understanding how, and h...
Book
The rational analysis method, first proposed by John R. Anderson, has been enormously influential in helping us understand high-level cognitive processes. The Probabilistic Mind is a follow-up to the influential and highly cited 'Rational Models of Cognition' (OUP, 1998). It brings together developments in understanding how, and how far, high-level...
Article
The ability to pass tests of stimulus equivalence seems to mark an important distinction between animals and humans that is tied to language. Most other animals are unable to reliably pass equivalence tests. Even linguistically trained chimps seem unable to pass them (Dugdale & Lowe, 1990). Moreover, pre-linguistic children show similar poor perfor...
Article
In this article, 41 models of covariation detection from 2 × 2 contingency tables were evaluated against past data in the literature and against data from new experiments. A new model was also included based on a limiting case of the normative phi-coefficient under an extreme rarity assumption, which has been shown to be an important factor in cova...
Article
Full-text available
In this chapter, we argue that while people may well be capable of assessing deductive correctness when explicitly asked to, this is rarely, if ever, their focus of interest in evaluating an argument. Thus we will conclude that inductive strength is probably more important in determining people's behavior than deductive correctness even on putative...
Article
Full-text available
Classical informal reasoning "fallacies," for example, begging the question or arguing from ignorance, while ubiquitous in everyday argumentation, have been subject to little systematic investigation in cognitive psychology. In this article it is argued that these "fallacies" provide a rich taxonomy of argument forms that can be differentially stro...
Article
Cummins (this issue) puts the case for an innate module for deontic reasoning. We argue that this case is not persuasive. First, we claim that Cummins’evolutionary arguments are neutral regarding whether deontic reasoning is learned or innate. Second, we argue that task differences between deontic and indicative reasoning explain many of the phenom...
Article
Full-text available
The notion of “the burden of proof” plays an important role in real-world argumentation contexts, in particular in law. It has also been given a central role in normative accounts of argumentation, and has been used to explain a range of classic argumentation fallacies. We argue that in law the goal is to make practical decisions whereas in critica...
Book
Are people rational? This question was central to Greek thought and has been at the heart of psychology and philosophy for millennia. This book provides a radical and controversial reappraisal of conventional wisdom in the psychology of reasoning, proposing that the Western conception of the mind as a logical system is flawed at the very outset. It...
Article
Full-text available
In this paper, it is argued that Ferguson’s (2003, Argumentation17, 335–346) recent proposal to reconcile monotonic logic with defeasibility has three counterintuitive consequences. First, the conclusions that can be derived from his new rule of inference are vacuous, a point that as already made against default logics when there are conflicting de...
Chapter
Book synopsis: This book explores a new approach to understanding the human mind - rational analysis - that regards thinking as a facility adapted to the structure of the world. This approach is most closely associated with the work of John R Anderson, who published the original book on rational analysis in 1990. Since then, a great deal of work ha...
Chapter
Reasoning is a mental process by which given information is transformed into a new and more useful form.

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