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A reasoning bias revealed by electrodermal activity

Authors

  • Laurence Carbonnell,

    1. Institut für Arbeitphysiologie an der Universität Dortmund, Dortmund, Germany
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  • Franck Vidal,

    1. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université d′Aix-Marseille I, Laboratoire de Neurobiologie de la Cognition, Marseille, France
    2. Institut de Médecine Navale du Service de Santé des Armées, Toulon, France
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  • Henrique Sequeira,

    1. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université de Lille I and Hôpital Salengro Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire, Neurosciences Fonctionnelles et Pathologies, Lille, France
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  • Jean-Paul Caverni

    1. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université d′Aix-Marseille I, Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive, Marseille, France
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  • This work was supported by a grant from the French Ministry of Research and Education and performed when the first author was a member of the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive. We thank Hammou Bouwalerh, Pascal Hot, Janick Naveteur, and Jean-Luc Péris for advice and technical assistance as well as Jennifer Coull for English correction.

Address reprint requests to: Dr. Laurence Carbonnell, Institut für Arbeitphysiologie an der Universität Dortmund, Ardeystr. 67, 44139 Dortmund, Germany. E-mail: carbonnell@ifado.de.

Abstract

The sufficiency of behavioral data supporting reasoning biases was challenged. Our objective was to test if physiological data could significantly support reasoning biases. Experiment 1: When performing a rule discovery task with feedback, participants sytematically gave the same response. This was not compatible with norms referring to a formal logic system, but was insufficient to conclude there was a reasoning bias. Only the knowledge of participants' expectations of feedback would merit this conclusion. Experiment 2: Participants' expectations were indexed by electrodermal activity. The results showed that when participants displayed the behavioral bias, they considered their responses to be correct and hence committed an error of logic. However, this error of logic did not prevent them from solving the task. This argues for a theory according to which human reasoning uses more economical strategies than the simple application of formal logical rules.

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