Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science (MIT Press)

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9780262195836: Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science (MIT Press)

A new proposal for integrating the employment of formal and empirical methods in the study of human reasoning.

In Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science, Keith Stenning and Michiel van Lambalgen -- a cognitive scientist and a logician -- argue for the indispensability of modern mathematical logic to the study of human reasoning. Logic and cognition were once closely connected, they write, but were "divorced" in the past century; the psychology of deduction went from being central to the cognitive revolution to being the subject of widespread skepticism about whether human reasoning really happens outside the academy. Stenning and van Lambalgen argue that logic and reasoning have been separated because of a series of unwarranted assumptions about logic.

Stenning and van Lambalgen contend that psychology cannot ignore processes of interpretation in which people, wittingly or unwittingly, frame problems for subsequent reasoning. The authors employ a neurally implementable defeasible logic for modeling part of this framing process, and show how it can be used to guide the design of experiments and interpret results.

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About the Author:

Keith Stenning is Professor of Human Communication in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He is author of Seeing Reason and coauthor of Introduction to Cognition and Communication (MIT Press, 2006). Michiel van Lambalgen is Professor of Logic and Cognitive Science at the University of Amsterdam and coauthor of The Proper Treatment of Events.


Once in a while there is a body of work that reconceptualizes a topic of research. This book reports and reviews such a body of work. The result is a framing and hypotheses about reasoning that, in my judgment, fundamentally reconstructs the psychology of inferential reasoning.... This book will be regarded as the major turning point in the field's development.

(James Greeno, Learning Research, and Development Center)

This deep and stimulating book, by a leading psychologist and a leading logician, is about the choice of logical formalisms for representing actual reasoning. There are two interlocking questions: what are the right formalisms to represent how people reason, and what forms do the reasoners themselves bring to the world in order to reason about it?

The authors'answer to the first question, using closed-world reasoning, allows them to analyse the wide range of strategies that people use for shaping their thinking. For example the book uncovers important links between autism and nonmonotonic reasoning. This may be the first book in cognitive science that logicians can learn some new logic from.

(Wilfrid Hodges, Herons Brook)

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