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Hardcover | $44.00 Short | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262195836 | 424 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 38 figures, 12 tables| August 2008
Paperback | $24.00 Short | £16.95 | ISBN: 9780262517591 | 424 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 38 figures, 12 tables| January 2012

Essential Info

Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science


In Human Reasoning and Cognitive Science, Keith Stenning and Michiel van Lambalgen—a cognitive scientist and a logician—argue for the indispensability of modern mathematical logic to the study of human reasoning. Logic and cognition were once closely connected, they write, but were "divorced" in the past century; the psychology of deduction went from being central to the cognitive revolution to being the subject of widespread skepticism about whether human reasoning really happens outside the academy. Stenning and van Lambalgen argue that logic and reasoning have been separated because of a series of unwarranted assumptions about logic.

Stenning and van Lambalgen contend that psychology cannot ignore processes of interpretation in which people, wittingly or unwittingly, frame problems for subsequent reasoning. The authors employ a neurally implementable defeasible logic for modeling part of this framing process, and show how it can be used to guide the design of experiments and interpret results. They draw examples from deductive reasoning, from the child's development of understandings of mind, from analysis of a psychiatric disorder (autism), and from the search for the evolutionary origins of human higher mental processes.

The picture proposed is one of fast, cheap, automatic but logical processes bringing to bear general knowledge on the interpretation of task, language, and context, thus enabling human reasoners to go beyond the information given. This proposal puts reasoning back at center stage.

A Bradford Book

About the Author

Keith Stenning is Professor of Human Communication in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. He is author of Seeing Reason and coauthor of Introduction to Cognition and Communication (MIT Press, 2006).


"Once in a while there is a body of work that reconceptualizes a topic ofresearch. This book reports and reviews such a body of work. The result is aframing and hypotheses about reasoning that, in my judgment, fundamentallyreconstructs the psychology of inferential reasoning .... This book will beregarded as the major turning point in the field's development."
James Greeno, Learning Research, and Development Center, University ofPittsburgh

"This deep and stimulating book, by a leading psychologist and a leadinglogician, is about the choice of logical formalisms for representing actualreasoning. There are two interlocking questions: what are the rightformalisms to represent how people reason, and what forms do the reasonersthemselves bring to the world in order to reason about it? The authors'answer to the first question, using closed-world reasoning, allows them toanalyse the wide range of strategies that people use for shaping theirthinking. For example, the book uncovers important links between autism andnonmonotonic reasoning. This may be the first book in cognitive sciencethat logicians can learn some new logic from."
Wilfrid Hodges, Queen Mary, University of London