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Chapter Nine. Conversational Processes in Reasoning and Explanation

Denis J. Hilton and Ben R. Slugoski

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631210344.2002.00011.x


Many psychologists conceive of judgment and reasoning as cognitive processes which go on “in the head” and involve intrapsychic information processing. Although it is incontestable that processes of attention, memory, and inference underpin judgment and reasoning, psychologists have perhaps overlooked the extent to which the operation of these higher mental processes is constrained by higher level assumptions about the social context of the information to be processed ( Bless, Strack, & Schwarz, 1993 ; Hilton, 1990, 1991, 1995 ; Hilton & Slugoski, in press; Schwarz, 1994, 1996 ; Turnbull, 1986 ; Turnbull & Slugoski, 1988 ). On the other hand, philosophers have in recent years drawn attention to the way in which reasoning from ordinary language is shaped by the nature of social interaction and conversation (e.g. Austin, 1962 ; Grice, 1975 ; Mackie, 1980 ; Strawson, 1952 ). These higher level assumptions can determine how we formulate messages, what we attend to in them, which relevant memories we search, and what kinds of inference we draw. An awareness of how the social context can shape explanation, reasoning, and judgment can lead to a better understanding of why people formulate explanations and reason in the way they do, and prevent theorists from misunderstanding why people make the judgments they do. In particular, this perspective can help psychologists ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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