Overcoming perceptual features in logical reasoning: an event-related potentials study
It is more difficult for reasoners to detect that the letter-number pair H7 verifies the conditional rule If there is not a T then there is not a 4 than to detect that it verifies the rule If there is an H then there is a 7. In prior work [Prado, J., & Noveck, I. A. (2007). Overcoming perceptual features in logical reasoning: a parametric functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 19(4), 642-657], we argued that this difficulty was due to mismatching effects, i.e. perceptual mismatches that arise when the items mentioned in the rule (e.g. T and 4) mismatch those presented in the test-pair (H and 7). The present study aimed to test this claim directly by recording ERPs while participants evaluated conditional rules in the presence or absence of mismatches. We found that mismatches, not only trigger a frontocentral N2 (an ERP known to be related to perceptual mismatch) but that they, parametrically modulate its amplitude (e.g. two mismatches prompt a greater N2 than one). Our results indicate that the main role of negations in conditional rules is to focus attention on the negated constituent but also suggest that there is some inter-individual differences in the way participants apprehend such negations, as indicated by a correlation between N2 amplitude and participants' reaction times. Overall, these findings emphasize how overcoming perceptual features plays a role in the mismatching effect and extend the mismatch-related effects of the N2 into a reasoning task.