Research Topic

Mental Model Theory in Relational Reasoning: Refinements, Extensions, and Criticisms

About this Research Topic

While reasoning remains a popular research theme in cognitive psychology, the last decades have seen a focus on propositional reasoning rather than reasoning with relations. The latter is not less essential to human cognition, however. For example, simple transitive reasoning is so common that most people will infer from ‘Matt is taller than Susan’ and ‘Susan is taller than Dave’ that Matt must be taller than Dave, without even realizing they were reasoning at all. A widely accepted explanation of how this reasoning is mentally implemented is found in mental model theory, which says that reasoners construct an iconic representation of the situation described.

This Research Topic aims to show
• refinements of use of mental strategies/models,
• extensions and criticisms of how mental model theory explains relational reasoning, and
• how brain imaging to demonstrate the mental model theory.

Refinements could be on which mental strategy reasoners exactly use when constructing or inspecting their mental models. These could take the form of (specifying existing or develop new) computational approaches, involve eye-tracking studies, etc. One could specify the principles that guide reasoners (such as the principle of parsimony or so-called preferred models), how these are implemented in the brain, how they are related to working memory resources, cognitive ability, inhibitory control, rational dispositions.

Extending mental model theory could be done by formulating a developmental perspective for it or further linking it with brain imaging techniques. Applying it beyond the context of abstract reasoning in the lab. How does it interact with context, with prior knowledge?

Brain imaging techniques may also provide a critical contribution to the field, challenging the predictions – or lack thereof – that mental model theory makes at the conceptual level. Critical voices could be heard from, e.g., the mental logic camp or challengers of the theoretical strength of the mental model theory.


Keywords: cognition, relational reasoning, mental models, strategies, individual differences


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

While reasoning remains a popular research theme in cognitive psychology, the last decades have seen a focus on propositional reasoning rather than reasoning with relations. The latter is not less essential to human cognition, however. For example, simple transitive reasoning is so common that most people will infer from ‘Matt is taller than Susan’ and ‘Susan is taller than Dave’ that Matt must be taller than Dave, without even realizing they were reasoning at all. A widely accepted explanation of how this reasoning is mentally implemented is found in mental model theory, which says that reasoners construct an iconic representation of the situation described.

This Research Topic aims to show
• refinements of use of mental strategies/models,
• extensions and criticisms of how mental model theory explains relational reasoning, and
• how brain imaging to demonstrate the mental model theory.

Refinements could be on which mental strategy reasoners exactly use when constructing or inspecting their mental models. These could take the form of (specifying existing or develop new) computational approaches, involve eye-tracking studies, etc. One could specify the principles that guide reasoners (such as the principle of parsimony or so-called preferred models), how these are implemented in the brain, how they are related to working memory resources, cognitive ability, inhibitory control, rational dispositions.

Extending mental model theory could be done by formulating a developmental perspective for it or further linking it with brain imaging techniques. Applying it beyond the context of abstract reasoning in the lab. How does it interact with context, with prior knowledge?

Brain imaging techniques may also provide a critical contribution to the field, challenging the predictions – or lack thereof – that mental model theory makes at the conceptual level. Critical voices could be heard from, e.g., the mental logic camp or challengers of the theoretical strength of the mental model theory.


Keywords: cognition, relational reasoning, mental models, strategies, individual differences


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

08 June 2020 Abstract
06 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

08 June 2020 Abstract
06 October 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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