Wason selection task what it is and what it shows about the reason

What is Wason selection task?

For millennia, it was considered that human beings are analytical and rational animals , that we can hardly fool ourselves when thinking rationally and deeply about a mathematical or logical problem. In this article we will provide you the information about Wason selection task.

While there may be cultural and educational differences, the truth is that this has come to be assumed to be something inherent and inherent in the human species, however, to what extent is this true?

Peter C. Wason had the fortune, or the misfortune as it turns out, to verify with a very simple assignment that this was plain and simple, not exactly true. With a very easy task called the Wason selection task , this researcher can see how many of our seemingly analytical decisions are not.

Here, we will explain what this task consists of, how it is solved and to what extent the context influences its correct resolution.

Composition of Wason selection task

Imagine that there are four cards on the table. Each of them has a number on one side and a letter on the other. Let’s say that, at this moment, the cards are placed in such a way as to look like this:

ED 2 9

They tell us that if on one side there is the letter E, on the other there will be an even number, in this case 2. What two letters should we raise to confirm or deny this hypothesis?

If your answer is the first and third letters, you are wrong. But don’t get discouraged, as only 10% of people who are presented with this task manage to answer it correctly. The correct action was to turn over the first and last of the cards, as they are the ones that let you know if the previous sentence is true or not. This is because when the letter E is lifted, it checks to see if there is an even number on the other side. If this were not the case, the statement would not be correct.

This example presented here is the task proposed by Peter Cathcart Wason in 1966 and is called the Wason Selection Task. It’s a logic puzzle where people’s reasoning ability is tested. Human thinking follows a series of steps to reach conclusions. We have developed a series of approaches whose premises allow us to reach conclusions.

There are two types of reasoning: deductive and inductive. The first is that which occurs when all the initial information allows reaching the final conclusion, while in the case of inductive reasoning there is concrete information that allows one to obtain it again, but not in absolute terms. In the case of the Wason task, the type of reasoning applied is deductive , also called conditional reasoning. Thus, when solving the task, the following should be taken into account:

The letter D must not be raised because, regardless of whether or not it has an even number on the other side, the statement is not negated . That is, they told us that on the other side of the letter E there should be an even number, but they never told us that no other letter can have the same type of number.

The letter must not be raised with the 2, because if there is an E on the other side, it checks the declaration, but it would be redundant, as we would have already done this when raising the first letter. If there is no E on the other side, it also does not refute the statement, since it was not said that an even number should have yes or yes the letter E on the other side.

Yes, the last face must be raised with 9 because, in case an E is found on the other side, it refutes the statement, as it means that it is not true that in all the letters of the letter E an even number is found on the other side.

pairing bias

The fact that most people fail the classic Wason task is due to a matching bias. This bias makes people hand over those letters that only confirm what is said in the statement, without thinking about those that could falsify what is said in it. This is somewhat shocking, given that the task itself is quite simple, but it is shown in a way that, if the statement is abstract, makes it fall for the above-mentioned deception.

This is why the Wason selection task is probably one of the most researched experimental paradigms of all time, as it somewhat frustratingly challenges the way we reason as human beings. Indeed, Wason himself in an article published in 1968 said that the results of his experiment, which we remember to be only 10% correct, were disturbing.

Throughout history, it has been assumed that the human species is characterized by analytical reasoning; however, this task shows that in many cases the decisions taken are completely irrational .

Context Changes Everything: Effect of Content

When this test was presented in a decontextualized way, that is, speaking in numbers and letters, as is the case presented here, the research showed very poor results. Most people answered incorrectly. However, if the information is presented with real life, the success rates change.

This was proven in 1982 by Richard Griggs and James Cox, who reformulated Wason’s task as follows.

They asked participants to imagine that they were a police officer and that they walked into a bar . Their task was to verify which minors were consuming alcohol and therefore committing an offence. There were people drinking, people who didn’t drink alcohol, people under 18 and people over 18. The question that was asked to the participants was which two groups of people should be interrogated in order to do the job well and faster.

In this case, around 75% answered correctly, saying that the only way to ensure that the mentioned offense was not committed was to ask the group of minors and the group of people who consume alcoholic beverages.

Another example that shows how the context makes the response to this task more efficient is the one proposed by Asensio, Martín-Cordero, García-Madruga and Recio in 1990 , in which, instead of alcoholic beverages, we talk about vehicles. If a person drives a car, he must be over 18 years old. Putting the following four cases to the participants:

Car / bicycle / person over 18 years old / person under 18 years old

As in the previous case, it is clear here that the car license and that of the person under 18 years old must be delivered, in this case 90% answered correctly . Although the task in this case is the same, confirm or falsify a statement, here, having contextualized information is faster and it is clearer what must be done to answer correctly.

This is when we talk about the content effect, that is, the way we reason human beings not only depends on the structure of the problem, but also on the content of the problem, whether it is contextualized or not, and therefore, therefore, we can relate it to real life problems.

The conclusions drawn from these new versions of the Wason task were that, when substantiated, certain errors are made. This is because more attention is paid to surface features , especially those that only confirm the raised abstract hypothesis. Exercise context and information affect correct exercise resolution, because understanding is more important than statement syntax.

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