Reasoning in its social, cultural and argumentative context

Confidence and argumentation

When given a logical or mathematical task, people tend to do much better in groups: if someone can figure out the correct answer, then she will be able to convince the others that she's right. With Emmanuel Trouche and Emmanuel Sander, we conducted a series of experiments showing that this was due to the exchange of arguments and not to the group member with the correct answer being more confident. The paper is just submitted -- and it also contains some other intriguing results.

Development of argumentative skills

Observational studies have revealed that children start to argue very early, but little experimental research has been carried out on this topic. With Stéphane Bernard and Fabrice Clément, we showed that 3- to 5-year olds are more convinced by a strong argument than by a circular argument. More experiments are under way looking at other arguments.

Cultural variations in reasoning and argumentation

As an evolutionary theory, the argumentative theory of reasoning claims that every normally developing human should start with similar reasoning mechanisms. However, it has been suggested that argumentation is mostly absent in some cultures or that reasoning is very different in non-Western cultures. With Hiroshi Yama and Makiko Deguchi, we have confirmed that argumentation also allows Japanese participants to reach better answers to logical and factual problems (the paper is just submitted). Now with Vittorio Girotto, Laura Fontanari and Thomas Castelain, we are setting up some experiments in a traditional, unschooled population.

I have also edited a special issue of the Journal of Cognition and Culture on this topic (see the links here).