Cognitive miserliness in argument literacy? Effects of intuitive and analytic thinking on recognizing fallacies

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Abstract

Fallacies are a particular type of informal argument that are psychologically compelling and often used for rhetorical purposes. Fallacies are unreasonable because the reasons they provide for their claims are irrelevant or insufficient. Ability to recognize the weakness of fallacies is part of what we call argument literacy and imporatant in rational thinking. Here we examine classic fallacies of types found in textbooks. In an experiment, participants evaluated the quality of fallacies and reasonable arguments. We instructed participants to think either intuitively, using their first impressions, or analytically, using rational deliberation. We analyzed responses, response times, and cursor trajectories (captured using mouse tracking). The results indicate that instructions to think analytically made people spend more time on the task but did not make them change their minds more often. When participants made errors, they were drawn towards the correct response, while responding correctly was more straightforward. The results are compatible with “smart intuition” accounts of dual-process theories of reasoning, rather than with corrective default-interventionist accounts. The findings are discussed in relation to whether theories developed to account for formal reasoning can help to explain the processing of everyday arguments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)331-361
JournalJudgment and decision making
Volume17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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