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Cogn Sci. 2015 Oct 9. doi: 10.1111/cogs.12303. [Epub ahead of print]

The Selective Laziness of Reasoning.

Author information

  • 1CNRS, Laboratory for Language, Brain and Cognition.
  • 2Cognitive Science, Lund University.
  • 3Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala University.
  • 4Center for Cognitive Sciences, University of Neuch√Ętel.


Reasoning research suggests that people use more stringent criteria when they evaluate others' arguments than when they produce arguments themselves. To demonstrate this "selective laziness," we used a choice blindness manipulation. In two experiments, participants had to produce a series of arguments in response to reasoning problems, and they were then asked to evaluate other people's arguments about the same problems. Unknown to the participants, in one of the trials, they were presented with their own argument as if it was someone else's. Among those participants who accepted the manipulation and thus thought they were evaluating someone else's argument, more than half (56% and 58%) rejected the arguments that were in fact their own. Moreover, participants were more likely to reject their own arguments for invalid than for valid answers. This demonstrates that people are more critical of other people's arguments than of their own, without being overly critical: They are better able to tell valid from invalid arguments when the arguments are someone else's rather than their own.

© 2015 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.


Argumentation; Belief bias; Choice blindness; Reasoning

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