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A conjunction of conjunction fallacies: What different types of causal conjunction error reveal about dual processes for thinking

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A conjunction of conjunction fallacies: What different types of causal conjunction error reveal about dual processes for thinking
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   A conjunction of conjunction fallacies: What different types of causal conjunction error reveal about dual processes for thinking Aidan Feeney Queen’s University Belfast  Aimee Crisp Durham University To be published in K. Manktelow, D.E. Over & S. Elqayam (Eds.). The science of reason: A Festschrift for Jonathan St. B.T. Evans. Hove, UK: Psychology Press  As well as inventing or popularising some of the most important paradigms in our field, Jonathan Evans has also investigated paradigms devised by other researchers. The conjunction fallacy, which will be the subject of our contribution to this book in his honour, must be one of the few heavily researched paradigms in thinking and reasoning that Jonathan has not studied experimentally. Jonathan and his colleagues have made important empirical and theoretical contributions to our understanding of base rate neglect, another of the phenomena first demonstrated by Kahneman and Tversky (see Evans, Handley, Perham, Over & Thompson, 2000; Evans, Handley, Over & Perham, 2002). In addition, he has recently given a dual process account of people’s tendency to violate the law of conjunction (see Evans, 2007a, pp 139-141). But, to the best of our knowledge, Jonathan has not carried out a single experiment on the conjunction fallacy. However, conjunction fallacies have been studied experimentally by others working with the dual process framework (see Sloman, Over, Slovack & Stibel, 2003; Stanovich & West, 1998; DeNeys, 2006a), and in this chapter we will describe our own recent work on a variety of conjunction fallacies. We have had two aims in our work on conjunction fallacies. First, we wished to examine causal versions of the fallacy. Many experiments have been carried out on the fallacy, but relatively few of them have investigated the causal variant which Tversky and Kahneman described in their seminal paper (Tversky & Kahneman, 1983). Second, we wished to use the causal conjunction fallacy to extend our understanding of the dual process account of thinking. In particular, we wished to consider the challenge for that account posed by the effects of causal knowledge on reasoning. For all the attention that causality has received recently in the literature, there have been few attempts to give a dual  process specification of causal thinking (for an important exception see Fugelsang & Thompson, 2003).Yet recent findings challenge the conventionally accepted dichotomy between contextualized heuristic processes and knowledge-poor, abstract analytical processes, suggesting that the latter can no longer be considered strictly decontextualized. We suggest that causal knowledge can interact with both reasoning processes. As demonstrated by the first wave of our studies, at the heuristic end of the reasoning spectrum, causal knowledge can bias the strength of the initial reasoning output. In contrast, our second series suggests that causal knowledge can also serve as input to contextualized analytical reasoning. Thus, it appears that some aspects of causal knowledge result in a heuristic response, whereas other aspects are dealt with via an analytical process. Prompted by these results on different variations of the causal conjunction fallacy, we will offer some very basic speculations as to how dual process theories might capture the different effects of causal knowledge on reasoning. The conjunction fallacy Tversky and Kahneman described two versions of the conjunction fallacy in their seminal paper. The most famous of these is the M →A variant where participants are presented with a pen picture of an individual and a series of statements which they must place in rank order of probability. The target statement A is unrepresentative of the stereotype evoked by the pen picture, but an additional feature B is representative. Thus, people rank the conjunction of A & B as more probable than the target statement A. The most famous version of this variant of the fallacy consists of a description of Linda who is “…31 years old, single, outspoken, and very bright. At University, she studied philosophy. As a student, she was deeply concerned with issues of discrimination and social justice, and she participated in  anti- nuclear demonstrations.” Participants are then asked to rank orde r a number of statements in terms of their probability. These include the statements (A) “Linda is a bank teller”, (B) “Linda is a feminist”, and (A&B) “Linda is a feminist and a bank teller”. In between and within participant designs, Tverky and Kahneman observed that people ranked the conjunction of features as being more probable than the single feature (A). They interpreted this as a fallacy because p(a&b) can never be greater than p(a) or p(b). The large literature on the conjunction fallacy primarily concerns the M→A variant. The size of that literature has been caused, to some degree at least, by disagreements about the status of the conjunction fallacy. Many authors have sought to reinterpret the tendency to rank the conjunction as more probable than the single feature A as being due to the pragmatics of the task (e.g. Dulany & Hilton , 1991; Maachi, 1995; Hertwig, Benz & Krauss.,  2008). Under such a reading, the effects described in the literature are not evidence of irrationality, but of sensible reasoning given everyday, conversational interpretations of experimental instructions and natural language connectives. On the other side are researchers who, convinced that the conjunction fallacy is real, argue that it can be used to help us make inferences about human rationality (see Stanovich, 1999; Sides, Osherson,  Bonini, & Viale, 2002; Crupi, Fitelson & Tentori, 2008). As we do not wish to make claims about the nature of rationality on the basis of our experiments, we will have little to say about this debate. Instead, we will focus on what conjunction fallacies can tell us about the processes involved in thinking. Our interest throughout will be in the causal conjunction fallacy, the second variant described by Tversky and Kahneman. This version of the fallacy consists of a target event B which is made more likely by the addition of a causal event A, so that people consider the  conjunction of A&B to be more probable than B on its own. For example, Tversky and Kahneman showed that people thought that Mr. F., a participant selected by chance to be included in a representative sample of males from British Columbia of all ages and occupations, was more likely to have had one or more heart attacks and be over 55 than to have had one or more heart attacks. The causal conjunction fallacy has received far less attention than the M→A variant, and the results that have appeared in the literature are mixed. For example, Thuring and Jungerman (1992) found that manipulating the presence or absence of a causal link between A and B had no effect on rates of the fallacy. Fisk and Pidgeon (2002) on the other hand did find that the presence of a conditional relationship between A and B increased rates of the fallacy, but did not find a correlation between the strength of the conditional relationship and rates of the fallacy. However, Fabre, Caverni and Jungerman (1995) contrasted pairs of events where a causal relationship was perceived to be “frequent” with pairs where the relationship was only “possible”, and observed  significantly greater rates of the fallacy in the first case. Our initial interest in the causal conjunction fallacy was to examine whether the strength of the causal relationship perceived to exist between the conjuncts would predict the rate at which participants committed the conjunction fallacy. To see why this prediction falls out of the dual process account of the fallacy (see Stanovich & West, 1998; DeNeys 2006a), we must briefly review the dual process framework Dual Processes for Thinking and the Conjunction Fallacy There are now many dual process accounts of thinking, in a variety of domains, and each different theory makes slightly different claims about the characteristics of the two processes which are supposed to enable our thoughts (for a recent review see Evans, 2008).
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