Disconfirmation and Dual Hypotheses on a More Difficult Version of Wason’s 2–4–4 Task

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This paper reports two experiments in which subjects worked to solve a more difficult version of Wason’s 2–44 task: instead of the usual “numbers must ascend in order of magnitude” rule, a more general rule, “the three numbers must be different”, was used. The first experiment established that instructing subjects to disconfirm on the “three different numbers” did not significantly improve their performance, as compared with confirmatory and control groups. Disconfirmatory subjects did try to propose more triples at variance with their hypotheses but were unable to obtain the necessary disconfirmatory information. To help subjects represent the task in a way that facilitated disconfirmation, the second experiment utilized a procedure in which subjects were told that they were looking for two rules, Dax and Med-the Dax rule corresponding to “three different numbers” and the Med rule to its complement, i.e. two or more numbers the same. Of subjects in the Dax-Med condition, 88% solve the rule, as opposed to 21% of subjects in a control condition. Dax-Med subjects tended to search for positive instances of the Med rule, which, in nun, forced them to test the limits of the Dax rule. It was concluded that the Dax-Med manipulation did facilitate a different mental representation of the task than the normal procedure. © 1987, IEEE. All rights reserved.

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The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A