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Information stored in memory affects abductive reasoning


Klichowicz, Anja; Lippoldt, Daniela Eileen; Rosner, Agnes; Krems, Josef F (2021). Information stored in memory affects abductive reasoning. Psychological Research, 85(8):3119-3133.

Abstract

Abductive reasoning describes the process of deriving an explanation from given observations. The theory of abductive reasoning (TAR; Johnson and Krems, Cognitive Science 25:903-939, 2001) assumes that when information is presented sequentially, new information is integrated into a mental representation, a situation model, the central data structure on which all reasoning processes are based. Because working memory capacity is limited, the question arises how reasoning might change with the amount of information that has to be processed in memory. Thus, we conducted an experiment (N = 34) in which we manipulated whether previous observation information and previously found explanations had to be retrieved from memory or were still visually present. Our results provide evidence that people experience differences in task difficulty when more information has to be retrieved from memory. This is also evident in changes in the mental representation as reflected by eye tracking measures. However, no differences are found between groups in the reasoning outcome. These findings suggest that individuals construct their situation model from both information in memory as well as external memory stores. The complexity of the model depends on the task: when memory demands are high, only relevant information is included. With this compensation strategy, people are able to achieve similar reasoning outcomes even when faced with tasks that are more difficult. This implies that people are able to adapt their strategy to the task in order to keep their reasoning successful.

Abstract

Abductive reasoning describes the process of deriving an explanation from given observations. The theory of abductive reasoning (TAR; Johnson and Krems, Cognitive Science 25:903-939, 2001) assumes that when information is presented sequentially, new information is integrated into a mental representation, a situation model, the central data structure on which all reasoning processes are based. Because working memory capacity is limited, the question arises how reasoning might change with the amount of information that has to be processed in memory. Thus, we conducted an experiment (N = 34) in which we manipulated whether previous observation information and previously found explanations had to be retrieved from memory or were still visually present. Our results provide evidence that people experience differences in task difficulty when more information has to be retrieved from memory. This is also evident in changes in the mental representation as reflected by eye tracking measures. However, no differences are found between groups in the reasoning outcome. These findings suggest that individuals construct their situation model from both information in memory as well as external memory stores. The complexity of the model depends on the task: when memory demands are high, only relevant information is included. With this compensation strategy, people are able to achieve similar reasoning outcomes even when faced with tasks that are more difficult. This implies that people are able to adapt their strategy to the task in order to keep their reasoning successful.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Developmental and Educational Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous), Developmental and Educational Psychology, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology, General Medicine
Language:English
Date:November 2021
Deposited On:02 Feb 2022 17:49
Last Modified:21 Mar 2024 04:41
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0340-0727
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00426-020-01460-8
PubMed ID:33428007
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID157432
  • : Project TitleUnderstanding the Role of Memory in Judgments and Decisions: The Influence of Exemplars
  • : FunderProjekt DEAL
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)