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Mem Cognit. 2012 Apr;40(3):408-19. doi: 10.3758/s13421-011-0159-z.

Contrast class cues and performance facilitation in a hypothesis-testing task: evidence for an iterative counterfactual model.

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University of Derby, Derby, UK.


Hypothesis-testing performance on Wason's (Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 12:129-140, 1960) 2-4-6 task is typically poor, with only around 20% of participants announcing the to-be-discovered "ascending numbers" rule on their first attempt. Enhanced solution rates can, however, readily be observed with dual-goal (DG) task variants requiring the discovery of two complementary rules, one labeled "DAX" (the standard "ascending numbers" rule) and the other labeled "MED" ("any other number triples"). Two DG experiments are reported in which we manipulated the usefulness of a presented MED exemplar, where usefulness denotes cues that can establish a helpful "contrast class" that can stand in opposition to the presented 2-4-6 DAX exemplar. The usefulness of MED exemplars had a striking facilitatory effect on DAX rule discovery, which supports the importance of contrast-class information in hypothesis testing. A third experiment ruled out the possibility that the useful MED triple seeded the correct rule from the outset and obviated any need for hypothesis testing. We propose that an extension of Oaksford and Chater's (European Journal of Cognitive Psychology 6:149-169, 1994) iterative counterfactual model can neatly capture the mechanisms by which DG facilitation arises.

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