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Elementary, my dear Wason: The role of problem representation in the THOG task


The present study was concerned with Wason's THOG problem, a hypothetico-deductive reasoning task for which performance over the past 20 years has typically been very poor (<20% correct). We examined the hypothesis that incorporating a quasi-visual context into the problem statement would make both the binary, symmetric tree structure and solution principle of the THOG task clearer and thus facilitate performance. A version of O'Brien et al.'s (Q J Exp Psychol 42A:329–351) Blackboard THOG problem, that specifies each branch of the tree by describing a specific location for each possible color-shape combination, was used to test this hypothesis. Substantial facilitation was both observed (68% correct) and replicated (73% correct), and it was also shown that it is necessary to provide a representation of both sides of the tree to obtain this level of facilitation. The implications of these results for human deductive reasoning are considered.

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Received: 1 November 2000 / Accepted: 4 May 2001

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Koenig, C., Griggs, R. Elementary, my dear Wason: The role of problem representation in the THOG task. Psychological Research Psychologische Forschung 65, 289–293 (2001).

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  • Problem Statement
  • Specific Location
  • Tree Structure
  • Problem Representation
  • Deductive Reasoning