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Title: Advancing an understanding of belief bias through an analysis of individual differences
Author: Pitchford, Melanie
Awarding Body: Lancaster University
Current Institution: Lancaster University
Date of Award: 2012
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The work presented in this thesis aimed to advance an understanding of belief bias in human reasoning. What are the factors that cause people, when engaged in reasoning, to be influenced by their prior beliefs and knowledge rather than apply logic to an argument to arrive at a normatively correct outcome? To address these issues three experiments were undertaken that focused on cognitive ability measures (specifically working memory capacity) as well as evidence from response time data and individual differences in measures of thinking dispositions. Experiment 1 examined the role of working memory in the belief bias paradigm, considering both endorsement rates and processing times. Experiment 2 built on the findings from Experiment I and investigated more thoroughly the role of working memory capacity and the evidence from the chronometric data. This was achieved by using materials with stricter controls and through increased test power via a larger participant sample. Experiment 3 aimed to ascertain exactly what it is that drives successful reasoning with belief-oriented problems. To address this issue the experiment involved a measure of abstract reasoning as well as measures of thinking dispositions, one assessing people's proclivity to engage in open-minded thinking and the other assessing their tendency towards rational and experiential thinking styles. Overall the findings suggest that reasoners who apply open-minded thinking have a greater ability to override the effects of belief bias and perform in a more normative manner when logic and belief are in conflict. A higher working memory capacity is only associated with reasoners demonstrating longer processing times with conflict problems, but plays no role in successful reasoning in the belief bias paradigm. With respect to processing times across problem types, the data revealed some support and some challenges to previous models of belief bias.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available