The premises must be correct for the natural conclusions to follow


“What’s behind an inference? An EEG study with conditional arguments”


Conditional reasoning studies typically involve presenting a major conditional premise (If P then Q), a minor premise (P) and a conclusion (Q). We describe how most fMRI studies investigate reasoning and point out that these studies neglect to take into consideration the temporal sequence of cognitive steps generated by the interaction of the premises. The present study uses EEG to address this issue and compares the processing of the minor premiseP when it is presented before vs. after the conditional statement (P; If P then Q vs. If P then Q; P). When the minor premise comes after the conditional statement and matches the antecedent its processing results in a P3b component, known to reflect the satisfaction of expectations, and in two later components, a PSW component and a CNV component. These two components are discussed in light of a conclusion generation phase and a maintenance phase. We also investigated the effect of violating expectations through the presentation of a minor premise that mismatches the antecedent of the conditional statement (If P then Q; R). The data indicate that the processing of such a premise yields an N2 component which is known to reflect perceptual conflict.”