Philip N. Johnson-Laird's Theory of

Mental Models

(and related issues)

(Click on the title above to do a Google search on it.
Note that "mental models" is not merely a brand name; other researchers use it to mean something related to, but distinct from, Johnson-Laird's theory.)

Last Update: 21 February 2011

Note: NEW or UPDATED material is highlighted

  1. Johnson-Laird's Theory of Mental Models



      • As of 31 August 2007, the data-collection and -reporting part of that website no longer seems to work, but the experiment is still there, and you should try it.

    2. General Overviews:

      1. NEW A Logical Puzzle

      2. A Logical Illusion

      3. "Mental Models Website: A Gentle Introduction"

      4. Laird-Johnson, P.N.; Girotto, Vittorio; & Legrenzi, Paolo (1998), "Mental Models: A Gentle Guide for Outsiders"

      5. Selmer Bringsjord, Ron Noel, Elizabeth Bringsjord (1998), "In Defense of Logical Minds"
        • A nice overview on the psychology of reasoning.

    3. The main historical sources:

      1. Wason, P.C. (1968), "Reasoning about a Rule", Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 20(3): 273-281.

      2. Wason, P.C.; & Johnson-Laird, P.N. (1969), "Proving a Disjunctive Rule", Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 21(1) (February): 14-20.

      3. Wason, P.C.; & Shapiro, Diana (1971), "Natural and Contrived Experience in a Reasoning Problem", Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 23(1): 63-71.

      4. Johnson-Laird, Philip N. (1980), "Mental Models in Cognitive Science", Cognitive Science 4: 71-115.

          Abstract: This article postulates that mental models differ from visual images and from propositional representations, and it presents evidence that corroborates the differences. It argues that reasoners use propositional representations of, say, spatial descriptions to construct mental models. It also argues that mental models rather than formal logic underlie syllogistic inference, e.g., some of the parents are drivers, all of the drivers are scientists, therefore, some of the parents are scientists. The article was the first in a journal to present a case for mental models as the end result of comprehension and as the starting point of deductive reasoning. This idea led to many subsequent investigations.

      5. Johnson-Laird, Philip N. (1983), Mental Models: Towards a Cognitive Science of Language, Inference, and Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

      6. Stanovich, Keith E.; & West, Richard F. (2000), "Individual Differences in Reasoning: Implications for the Rationality Debate?", Behavioral and Brain Sciences 23: 645-726.

  2. On a Dispute within Cognitive Science over the Nature of Human Reasoning: Is It Syntactic or Semantic?:

    1. An excellent survey article that clearly sets the grounds for the dispute:
      Johnson-Laird, P.N.; Byrne, Ruth M.J.; & Schaeken, Walter (1992), "Propositional Reasoning by Model", Psychological Review 99(3): 418-439.

    2. Rips, Lance J. (1994), The Psychology of Proof: Deductive Reasoning in Human Thinking (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).

    3. Johnson-Laird, Philip N. (1997), "Rules and Illusions: A Critical Study of Rips's The Psychology of Proof", Minds and Machines 7(3): 387-407.

    4. Rips, Lance J. (1997), "Goals for a Theory of Deduction: Reply to Johnson-Laird", Minds and Machines 7(3): 409-424.

    5. Johnson-Laird, Philip N. (1997), "An End to the Controversy? A Reply to Rips", Minds and Machines 7(3): 425-432.

    6. Fetzer, James H. (1999), "Deduction and Mental Models", Minds and Machines 9(1): 105-110.

    7. Johnson-Laird, Philip N., & Byrne, Ruth M.J. (1999), "Models Rule, OK? A Reply to Fetzer", Minds and Machines 9(1): 111-118.

    8. Fetzer, James H. (1999), "Mental Models: Reasoning without Rules", Minds and Machines 9(1): 119-126.

    9. A more recent article that presents neurological evidence concerning the debate:
      Goel, Vinod (2007), "Anatomy of Deductive Reasoning", Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11(10) (October): 435-441.

    10. And an application of the debate to Sudoku!:
      Louis Lee, N.Y.; Goodwin, Geoffrey P.; & Johnson-Laird, P.N. (2008), "The Psychological Puzzle of Sudoku", Thinking & Reasoning 14(4): 342-364.

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