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By Sunny

Special issue of JCP on mental models in cognitive change now out

On 26, Mar 2013 | In Lab News | By Sunny

The latest issue of the Journal of Cognitive Psychology is out, and it is a special issue on “Mental Models in Cognitive Change”. Abstracts from three contributions of the lab are available below.

Phil wrote an introduction to the special issue:

The theory of mental models owes its origins to Peirce’s logic in the nineteenth century and to Craik’s psychological research during the Second World War. This Special Issue marks the 30th anniversary of a book that tried to pull these and other strands together into a unified approach to comprehension and reasoning: Mental Models. The principal assumption of the theory is that individuals reason by trying to envisage the possibilities compatible with what they know or believe. The present paper reviews recent developments in the theory. It describes the issues that arise as a result of cognitive changes both in the short term and in the long term. And it introduces the set of papers in this Special Issue that explore such changes in mind.

Louis Lee and Phil contributed a paper called “Strategic changes in problem solving“:

One way to study how individuals reason to solve problems is to see how they develop strategies to solve a series of related problems. This paper accordingly presents a theory explaining how they do so: When individuals solve a series of problems, their initial moves are constrained solely by perceptual and cognitive characteristics of the problems. They deduce the consequences of tactical moves, whether or not these moves are successful in advancing them towards a solution. As they master these tactics, however, a strategic shift occurs. The deduced knowledge comes to constrain the generation of moves, through the discovery of global constraints. Three experiments investigating a series of “matchstick” problems corroborated the theory.

Amelia Gangemi, Francesco Mancini, and Phil contributed a paper called “Models and cognitive change in psychopathology“:

The hyper-emotion theory attributes psychological illnesses to emotions of aberrant intensity, which in turn prompt better reasoning about their causes. Two experiments in which participants drew their own conclusions from syllogistic premises tested this prediction. Individuals from the same populations as the experimental participants rated the believability of likely conclusions. One experiment compared patients with depression with controls, and the other experiment compared students scoring high on anxiety with controls. Controls tended to draw believable conclusions and not to draw unbelievable conclusions, and this belief bias was greater for invalid inferences. The clinical groups were better reasoners than the controls, and did not show belief bias. As our hypothesis predicted, they drew many more valid conclusions concerning their illness than controls drew valid believable conclusions. But, contrary to the hypothesis, they refrained from drawing invalid conclusions about neutral topics more than controls refrained from drawing invalid unbelievable conclusions.

And Phil and I contributed a paper called “Cognitive changes from explanations“:

When individuals detect that a description is inconsistent, theorists from William James onwards have argued that a cognitive change occurs: They modify the description in a minimal way to make it consistent. We present an alternative hypothesis: Reasoners create an explanation that resolves the inconsistency, and the explanation entails a revision or reinterpretation of the description. According to this principle of resolution, revision is consequent upon explanation. Hence, when individuals have such an explanation in mind, they should be faster than otherwise to modify assertions to make them consistent. Two experiments corroborated this prediction.