Thinking and Reasoning (PSYL10138)

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Thinking and Reasoning (PSYL10138)


This course will cover the ‘classic’ research into the cognitive psychology of reasoning as well as more current issues/developments. Topics will include:

  1. rationality, computational theories of cognition/information processing systems approaches, and issues of formal representation;
  2. deductive reasoning in syllogisms and if-then conditionals, with a specific focus on the debate between mental rules and mental models approaches to these topics;
  3. dual process models of reasoning dealing with content effects; causal reasoning/covariance models;
  4. Bayes’ rule and rational belief revision; bounded rationality and satisficing;
  5. probability heuristics;
  6. inductive and abductive reasoning.
  7. Subjective expected utility theory and Prospect Theory

Skills taught/developed in this course are hierarchical information integration with respect to empirical results and theoretical models; ability to evaluate computational models conceptually (not necessarily mathematically); critical analysis; and writing skills.


Learning Outcomes: 


 Knowledge & understanding of rationality and its application to modes of reasoning/decision making
 Hierarchical information integration with respect to empirical results and overarching theoretical models of cognition and rationality
 Understanding of distinction, and relationship, between descriptive models and normative models in developing scientific theory
 Ability to evaluate competing models in light of ambiguous evidence (i.e. ongoing debate with results backing both sides)




Thinking and Reasoning Reading List

Spring Semester 2019

Dr. Adam Moore

NB: If there are newer versions of textbooks (and/or textbook chapters) out there, you can read them, but I cannot check all of them for consistency with listed versions. It is unlikely that a newer version will miss vital information though, so if you read one of those as well as other assigned readings, you’re likely to be fine. I have included chapter names for books where a newer version would probably exit and be ok.

1. Introduction to the scientific study of thinking. Rationality (1).

Topics Covered:

Kinds of thinking; methods used in the field; structure of theories & models; what is rationality.


Required Readings:

Baron, J. (2008). Thinking and Deciding (4th Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 1 (What is thinking?) & 2 (The study of thinking).

Palmer, S. E. Fundamental Aspects of Cognitive Representation. (Uploaded on LEARN).

Wikipedia entry on Mental Representation (Representational Theories of Mind):



2. Rationality (2).

Topics Covered:

Kinds of rationality; normative models of thinking/rationality.


Required Readings:

Baron, J. (2008). Thinking and Deciding (4th Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 3 (Rationality).

Chater, N. & Oaksford, M. (2012). Normative systems: Logic, probability, and rational choice. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, Chapter 2, p. 11-21.

Griffiths, T. L., Tenenbaum, J. B., & Kemp, C. (2012). Bayesian inference. In K. J. Holyoak & R.G. Morrison (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, Chapter 3, p. 22-35.



3. Deductive Reasoning - Classic              

Topics Covered:

Types of logic; concept of deduction; early models of deductive competence – mental rules vs mental models.


Required Readings:

Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2010). Mental models and human reasoning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 18243-18250.

Khemlani, S. & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2012). Theories of the syllogism: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 427-457.



4. Deductive Reasoning – The New Paradigm

Topics Covered:

Probabilistic (re)conception of deductive reasoning.


Required Readings:

Chater, N. & Oaksford, M. (1999). The probability heuristics model of syllogistic reasoning. Cognitive Psychology, 38(2), 191-258.

Evans, J. (2003). In two minds: Dual-process accounts of reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(10), 454-459.

Evans, J. (2012). Questions and challenges for the new psychology of reasoning. Thinking & Reasoning, 18(1), 5-31.  



5. Inductive & Abductive Reasoning; Explanation

Topics Covered:

Problem of induction; centrality of abduction in science; factors that impact induction and abduction.


Required Readings:

Lombrozo, T. (2012). Explanation and abductive inference. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, Chapter 14, p. 260-276.

Sloman, S. A. (2005). The problem of induction. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning. Chapter 5, p. 95-116.



6. Analogical Reasoning

Topics Covered:

Power of analogies; concept of similarity gradients; models of analogical mapping.


Required Readings:

Gentner, D. & Markman, A. B. (1997). Structure mapping in analogy and similarity. American Psychologist, 52, 45-56.

Holyoak, K. J. & Thagard, P. (1997). The analogical mind. American Psychologist, 52, 35-44.



7. Causal Learning & Reasoning

Topics Covered:

Problem of causality; associationist vs causal induction approaches; causal inference in other types of cognition.


Required Readings:

Cheng, P. W. & Buehner, M. J. (2012). Causal Learning. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. Morrison (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning, Chapter 12, p. 134-154.

Sloman, S. A., Fernbach, P. M., & Ewing, S. (2009). Causal models: The representational infrastructure for moral judgment. In D. M. Bartels, C. W. Bauman, L. J. Skitka, & D. L.Medin (Eds.), The Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 50, 1-26.



8. Heuristics, (Ir)rationality, and Bounded Rationality

Topics Covered:

Definition of heuristics; subjective expected utility theory; disputed relationship between heuristics and (bounded) rationality; broader concepts of (bounded) rationality.


Required Readings:

Baron, J. (2008). Thinking and Deciding (4th Ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapters 10 (Normative theory of choice under uncertainty) & 11 (Descriptive theory of choice under uncertainty).

Gigerenzer, G. (2004). Fast and frugal heuristics: The tools of bounded rationality. In D. J. Koehler & N. Harvey (Eds.), Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Kahneman, D. & Klein, G. (2009). Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree. American Psychologist, 64, 515-526.



9. Prospect Theory and Decision by Sampling

Topics Covered:

SEUT & Prospect Theory – normative vs descriptive models of decision under uncertainty; sampling model (DbS) giving rise to Prospect Theory effects.


Required Readings:

Eyesenck & Keane (2015). Cognitive Psychology: A Student’s Handbook (7th Ed). East Sussex: Psychology Press Limited. Chapter 13, p. 547-588.

List, J. A. (2004). Neoclassical theory versus Prospect Theory: Evidence from the marketplace. Econometrica, 72, 615-625.

Stewart, N., Chater, N., & Brown, G. D. A. (2006). Decision by sampling. Cognition, 53(1), p. 1-26.




Additional Information: 


Detailed Assessment Information - 

Formative Feedback Event (Nature and Timing)

Mid-term short answers will have correct answers posted and formative feedback regarding why students’ answers did (not) earn maximum points.


Elements Of Summative Assessment (With Weightings) - 

30% Mid-term short answers (10)

70% Final exam essay (1) + short answers (10) [60-40 weighting split]


Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes - 

LOs 1, 2, 3 covered in short answers (mid term and final);

LOs 4, 5, 6 covered in essay (final exam)