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The transition from effortful to intuitive reasoning: experience, conflict and working memory engagement

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posted on 2022-03-28, 21:13 authored by Zoe A. Purcell
This thesis examines and develops the logical intuition dual process model of reasoning. The logical intuition model stipulates that effortful reasoning processes can become intuitive with increased practice and experience. However, this assumption has not previously been tested, nor integrated with the model's key elements: conflict and working memory engagement. In six studies within four papers, this thesis addresses this gap by examining conflict, a form of cognitive uncertainty, and working memory engagement as determined by experience. By examining the relationship between mathematical experience and CRT performance, we first demonstrate that, as domain-specific experience increases, working memory dependence decreases. This transition is then used to examine the relationship between conflict and working memory engagement. Paper 1 examines the effect of a secondary task on CRT performance across different levels of mathematical experience, demonstrating that working memory dependence decreases as experience increases. In Paper 2, we examine the relationship between explicit conflict and performance, and between explicit conflict and working memory engagement; finding that explicit conflict becomes a stronger predictor of performance as experience increased and that explicit conflict predicts working memory engagement. In Paper 3, using confidence ratings and novel eye-tracking measures, we demonstrate that participants register explicit and implicit conflict when giving incorrect responses on the CRT. In Paper 4, we find that implicit and explicit conflict factors independently predict working memory engagement. These papers comprise the first empirical assessment of a core assumption in dual process reasoning theories: that reasoning processes can transition from effortful to automatic. In examining this transition, a novel approach is used to explore key elements of the logical intuition model of reasoning. Overall, findings support the logical intuition model, but they also introduce additional qualifications.


Table of Contents

General introduction -- Paper 1: Domain-specific experience and dual-process thinking -- Paper 2: No pain, no gain : does cognitive conflict predict learning and effortful reasoning? -- Paper 3: Strategy and conflict on the cognitive reflections test : an eye tracking study -- Paper 4: Cognitive conflict predicts working memory engagement on the cognitive reflection test -- General discussion -- Appendix.


Includes bibliographical references Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Science, Department of Psychology

Department, Centre or School

Department of Psychology

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Colin Wastell


Copyright Zoe A. Purcell 2019. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (vi, 293 pages)

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