Stategies in human nonmonotonic reasoning
Although humans seem adept at drawing nonmonotonic conclusions, the nonmonotonic reasoning systems that researchers develop are complex and do not function with such ease. This paper explores people's reasoning processes in nonmonotonic problems. To avoid the problem of people's conclusions being based on knowledge rather than on some reasoning process, we developed a scenario about life on another planet. Problems were chosen to allow the systematic study of people's understanding of strict and nonstrict rules and their interactions. We found that people had great difficulty reasoning and we identified a number of negative factors influencing their reasoning. We also identified three positive factors which, if used consistently, would yield rational and coherent reasoning-but no subject achieved total consistency. (Another possible positive factor, specificity, was considered but we found no evidence for its use.) It is concluded that nonmonotonic reasoning is hard. When people need to reason in a domain where they have no preconceived ideas, the foundation for their reasoning is neither coherent nor rational. They do not use a nonmonotonic reasoning system that would work regardless of content. Thus, nonmonotonic reasoning systems that researchers develop are expected to do more reasoning than humans actually do!
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